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Thread: Pokemon Revolution: Advent Phoenix (Rated T)

  1. #151
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    In a twisted world........
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    PHYSICS IS KICKING MY A** =.=

    Anyway, good chapters, I would type more if I weren't in a rush to school right now. >.> and I am sure i could find at least one grammar mistake, that is, if i have the time =.=

    EDIT: btw I have just seen three scanning over it ^.^ which is good news for me, I am not of a job ^.^
    Last edited by Castform; 31st August 2007 at 1:03 PM.

  2. #152
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    May 2005
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    Default Chapter 15

    You’ve probably had a few questions about this guy ever since you saw him in Chapter 2, right? Well, hold your breath, because some questions are about to be answered now about our favorite rogue.

    Yes, there’s still a tournament going on up on the surface, but that’s not important...yet.

    Chapter 15: The Wise Man and the Wanderer


    June 9, PA 2013 – Hermitage Cavern


    Reivyn let out a scream as Kenjiro pulled them from the inside of his cloak. Two, eight-inch-long knives with diamond-shaped cross sections – the image of the weapons that she often employed in combat. These two, however, seemed worn, and on their tips were black spots that were obviously dried blood that, for some reason, Kenjiro had never bothered to wash off.


    “Melee weapons...” Creon said, lowering his rod to the ground, his straight, sable hair flapping behind him. “You are not a complete coward, then.”

    “I made a vow not to use these until the time was right,” Kenjiro said. “By destroying Fenrir, you force me to break that vow. For that, the punishment can be nothing worse than a painful death.”

    “You dare threaten me?!” Creon shouted, twirling his rod above his head. “You, without the least bit of the knowledge of the forces that –“

    “I wouldn’t bet on that,” Kenjiro said aggressively, the two knives beginning to glow amber in his hands.

    “You came to Master Hong seeking more power, then,” Creon said.

    “You know, stubborn people that can’t accept making a mistake really make me sick,” Kenjiro said. “So, why don’t you just put the stick down and step out of the –“

    There was another gun-like blast, as a spark of silver light shot forth from the end of Creon’s staff. Kenjiro watched it sail past him, missing his head by inches.

    “That wasn’t very nice at all,” he said loudly, charging. Creon shot forth several more jets of light from his staff, but Kenjiro dodged all of them, charging Creon and raising his dagger to strike.

    He missed Creon’s face by inches, and the long-haired man responded by using his free hand to grab Kenjiro around the throat, forcing him backward. Kenjiro saw blue lights flicker in front of his face as something smacked into his jaw and sent him flying. He hit the rock floor and bounced once, rolling to a stop in front of a very worried and frightened Reivyn.

    “Kenji!” she exclaimed.

    “I’m – fine,” he grunted, struggling to his feet and panting.

    “Now where was the young man that – there you are!” an elderly-sounding voice exclaimed. Hong Liu had come back out of his home to find Creon in front of the garden and Kenjiro several dozen yards away. “Creon, what’s going on here?”

    “This guy says he wants to talk to you,” Creon replied. “About what, he wouldn’t tell me...”

    “He came here with me – didn’t you see him?” Hong Liu reprimanded. “You must learn to pay more attention, Creon.”

    “Yes, Master,” Creon groaned, his head lowered.

    “Now, I want you to show our guests inside,” the sage ordered.

    “Follow me, then,” Creon said grudgingly, beckoning to Kenjiro and Reivyn.

    Kenjiro turned in Reivyn’s direction.

    “Come on,” he said. Reivyn stepped away from him. “Come on – what’s wrong?”

    “Just...go,” Reivyn replied. She was not meeting Kenjiro’s eye now. He was confused.

    “You can’t stay out here by yourself,” he said, starting to sound desperate. “Please...Reivyn, come inside.”

    “No,” Reivyn said with such finality that Kenjiro gave up immediately.


    “Don’t wander off,” Kenjiro said with the air of a sitter talking to a five-year-old, following Hong Liu and Creon inside. Reivyn sighed and her gaze returned again to the underground waterfall.

    This was what he had not told her.

    She felt the crushing weight of hurt and disappointment on her heart – the weight one feels when one’s trust has been violated. Yet, for her, this was the first time. She trusted no one to care, nor have her best interests at heart. And yet, the one person she did trust had turned out to be a mask, hiding his true identity from her.

    She needed a way out – but where would it be? As far as she could gather, she was miles underground; if that weren’t bad enough, even if she made it to the surface from here, she would have to find a way across five miles of water between this place and Dewford Island. She would be relatively safe there...after all, he said that they wouldn’t chase her across water –

    Then again, it was he that said it, so she could not be sure now. What if, somewhere in Dewford Town, there was a contingent of acolytes and Temple Knights waiting for her as soon as she landed?

    What if he’d had this planned all along?

    Could she trust anyone now?

    Don’t wander off, he’d just said. He wanted her to stay right where she was. Before, he had always advocated moving as much as possible to keep them off her track. Now, there was this unpleasant change...

    It was the story of her sad existence. She had grown up alone, and she was going to die alone...with no one on her side.

    She collapsed in front of the pond, looking at her kneeling self in the clear water. She adjusted her scarlet hair, as her hands had nothing to do. Thinking of something, she stretched her hand toward the water. It grew still and began to shake. Closing her eyes, she visualized what she wanted done with the water, where she wanted it to go...

    She swung her hand in an arc over her head, opening her eyes. A huge jet of water had leapt up from the pond and followed her hand, sprinkling her with a mist as it passed overhead before slamming into the earth below with a great splash.

    “A dragon, made entirely of water – very beautiful,” a woman’s voice made Reivyn jump and whirl around. Standing there was a woman most likely in her twenties. Her auburn hair was tied into two large plaits that hung at the sides of her head. She also had a headband around her forehead, much like Creon’s except that it was dark blue to go along with her outfit. Around her neck was a choker that appeared to be set with one solitary ruby. She seemed to be armed with two short swords – thankfully, neither of them were in her hands, which were covered by black fingerless gloves. “Where did you learn how to do that?”

    Reivyn didn’t answer.

    “What’s the matter? Meowth got your tongue?” the woman asked, tilting her head. “What’s your name? You do have a name, right?”

    Reivyn remained silent, taking a step back and making a mental note of where her kunai were located.

    “Is something wrong? You look a bit on edge,” the woman said.

    “I want to go back to Dewford,” Reivyn said finally.


    “Where’s the young man that was with you?” the woman asked. Reivyn’s heart gave a jolt – at some point, this woman had been spying on her. Reivyn’s silvery eyes darted toward the hermit’s home. “On the cart?”

    How did she know about the cart ride??

    Reivyn took two quick steps backward, drawing her weapons.

    “Crossbows,” she muttered.

    “That? Oh, it was nothing personal, trust me,” the young woman laughed. “We’re just a bit...protective of Master Hong, you see. I don’t want to fight you.”

    Reivyn understood these words very clearly. With a sigh of relief, she put away her daggers.

    “My name is Agnes St. Galtea,” the woman said with a smile. “My husband and I stumbled upon this place by accident ten years ago, and we’ve been protecting it – and Master Hong – ever since.”

    “Creon?” Reivyn asked, thinking directly back to the long-haired man that had gone inside with Kenjiro.

    “Creon’s my husband, yes,” Agnes explained. “Now that I’ve volunteered all of that information, would you mind at least telling me your name?”

    “Reivyn,” Reivyn finally said.

    “That’s a beautiful name,” Agnes commented, continuing to smile endearingly in the hopes that the red-haired girl talking to her would know that Agnes meant her no harm.



    “Well, at least you know where everything is,” Kenjiro commented, for Hong Liu had just shown him a huge map of Hoenn that appeared to be accurate at least up to the year 2010 – as current as a low-detail map needed to be.

    This house was quite small on the inside. It was a single-floor house and composed mainly of five rooms.
    Kenjiro was presently inside the room that was used for the living room, the dining room, and the study. This was the largest of the rooms, forty feet by forty feet. On the walls, rather high bookshelves lined the walls on the rooms far corners. On the left side was the aforementioned map. On the right ticked a clock. Kenjiro realized with a jolt that it was now just past three in the afternoon, assuming this clock was right. It felt like it had been a lot longer than three hours since he’d received the letter at the Pokémon Center, traveled with Reivyn all the way to the cave, and then endured the rather frenzied cart ride that landed them here. Also on the right was a scroll of what appeared to be runic symbols. Although Kenjiro was curious about them, he couldn’t bother giving it a second look – he didn’t understand runic symbols anyway.

    In the middle of this room sat a table with four chairs. Kenjiro was sitting on the chair nearest to the door, and the one opposite him was occupied by Creon, who sat there with his staff in his hand, eyeing Kenjiro with a look of utmost suspicion.

    (The other four rooms, Kenjiro gathered, were the lodgings of Hong Liu and Creon, on the left and right sides respectively, along with adjoining bathrooms for each.)

    “I do not choose to lose touch with the outside world – that is foolish,” Hong Liu said sagely, running over the map with his old, wrinkled fingers. “I merely choose not to live there – and all for the best, if the rumors I hear of today’s Hoenn are true.”

    “What rumors?” Kenjiro leaned his elbows on the wooden table, intrigued at the sage’s comment.


    “I hear that King Elvanan has died – as recently as a year ago,” Hong Liu said, sitting down in the chair to the left of the room.

    “It is true,” Kenjiro said.

    “How sad...” Hong Liu’s manner suddenly became more somber. Granted, the topic of conversation was a man’s death, so this was in order. Kenjiro, however, got the feeling that Hong Liu had some kind of connection with the late monarch. “It feels as if I’ve lost a grandson...”

    “Lost a grandson?” Kenjiro repeated. “Did you know the King?”

    “Elvanan’s father, King Valorian II, liked to ask me for advice from time to time,” Hong Liu said heavily. “I like to think that Valorian considered me a friend, even...but I saw much of Elvanan’s life. When the boy was born back in 1950, I was one of the first to know. I watched him grow from a baby into a strong man, and when he found a bride, I was given the task of performing the ceremony. When Valorian passed away in 1980, he recommended that I stay on as Elvanan’s advisor. But there were some that feared my influence...the chief of them being a young man named Malachi...”

    “Gorba,” Kenjiro muttered.

    “Yes, that was his surname,” Hong Liu replied. “He convinced the court that the task of chief advisor was better suited to someone younger.”

    He let out a laugh.

    “Truth be told, he had a point,” the wizened old man chuckled. “I was, of course, nearing a hundred when Elvanan was born – so by the time he became king, I was very old indeed! That, however, was not the reason that Malachi Gorba sought to oust me. He just needed an excuse. Malachi was a very intelligent boy, yes...but also very ambitious.”

    Kenjiro supposed inwardly that, when a man had lived for over a century and a half, it was well within his rights to call anyone presently nearing the age of sixty a ‘boy’.

    “He wanted the position for himself,” Kenjiro said.

    “Yes, and who could blame him?” Hong Liu chuckled again. “To be the right-hand man of the king – most men would give their right arm for an opportunity like that! Me, though...I’d had my fill of politics, so when Gorba did that, I graciously stepped aside and left the capital. Then, Gorba began to send men after me, spreading vicious lies that I was plotting to overthrow Elvanan. I ran for my life for nearly twenty years. I doubt that Elvanan was aware of Malachi’s vendetta – he would have put a stop to it. Then, when I ran as far as I could without leaving Hoenn, I found this place – and I’ve lived here ever since.”

    “Hmm...I’m sorry,” Kenjiro sighed.

    “Sorry? Why?” Hong Liu asked.

    “The reason I came down here was because...Gorba’s plan for you has changed,” Kenjiro said.

    “Elvanan had twin boys, right?” Hong Liu asked. “Their names were – oh, I can’t remember for the life of me...”

    “Elrik and Edgar,” Kenjiro answered. “Edgar is the king now.”

    “It must have been tough for Elvanan to choose one of his sons over the other...” Hong Liu commented.

    “Elvanan didn’t choose,” Kenjiro said flatly. “He died before he could, and Gorba made the decision for him. He thinks Elrik is a threat to Edgar’s, and therefore his own, power. Now the same thing that happened to you years ago is happening to Prince Elrik.”

    “What is the prince doing about it, then?” Hong Liu said. “Surely, he cannot start a war against his own brother!”

    Kenjiro sighed.

    “It’s complicated,” he said. “No, not a war...not yet. Elrik doesn’t have that kind of support. His force is probably about a thousandth of the strength of Edgar’s Imperial Army.”

    “Imperial...” Hong Liu repeated, sounding numb with disbelief.

    “Edgar plans to set himself up as an emperor. I’m not sure if this was Gorba’s direct decision, but his influence is definitely there,” Kenjiro explained. “Either way, it hasn’t been very good news for Hoenn. Half the kingdom’s under martial law now, and you can’t think a bad word about Edgar or Gorba for fear of getting whacked to death by an Imperial Knight.”

    “Totalitarianism...?” Hong Liu asked, sounding fearful.

    “Headed in that direction,” Kenjiro answered grimly, inclining his head.

    “No! Elvanan never would have stood for it!” Hong Liu let out a groan of anguish.

    “Now, Gorba wants to use your power – this ‘magic’ or whatever you have...to frighten all of Hoenn into submission,” Kenjiro continued. “Then, when he no longer finds you useful...”

    “No!” Creon shouted, jumping to his feet. “Master Hong...what should we do?”

    “It won’t be long before the Imperials find this place, too. You set up some damn good traps, but they wouldn’t all be enough to stop an entire battalion of Imperial Knights. That’s not to mention what they could do if they get their hands on the stone fragments down here...” Kenjiro muttered very quickly. Taking a deep breath, he finally said. “I suggest...that you leave this place and seek asylum in another country.”


    June 9, PA 2013 – Dewford Beach

    Just as quickly as Travis’ second-round opponent had won his match in the first round, Travis showed him the door in less than three minutes. As if this act laid down a definitive challenge, Matthew won his match in two and a half minutes – so quickly that, by the time Travis returned to the beach (for he had left to answer the call of nature) the match was already over. At that point, there was an hour’s break for the remaining four competitors – Travis, Matthew, a deceptively-skilled brunette girl named Liza Flynn, and Brad, whom Travis would be facing for the first spot in the finals.

    This one-hour break was quite merciful, as it allotted the competitors enough time to scamper down the road to the Pokémon Center in order to heal their Pokémon’s injuries and fatigue, then scamper back before the semi-finals started.

    Here at twelve minutes past three, Travis was just finishing his scampering – with three minutes to spare before his match. Brad was already down on the beach, talking – or, the right term is probably flirting – with a group of bikini-clad teenage girls that had been watching the entire tournament. Travis wondered what kind of wild stories or funny jokes Brad was telling to get this group of three lovely ladies to hang on his every word. Granted, Brad had been an Orange League Champion and therefore only had to embellish his life so much...

    But as he caught Katrina’s eye and watched her spring to her feet and run to him, he was glad that he didn’t have to think up stories to impress her. In any case, anything he could ever think up would be pretty lame standing next to the story they had actually lived through...

    “You barely made it!” she said breathlessly, throwing herself upon him and pecking him on the cheek. “Your match starts in, like, two minutes!”

    “Brad doesn’t seem to be in a hurry,” Travis said, pointing out the curly-haired boy among the group of girls.

    “Ha ha...” Katrina let out a laugh. “Typical boy.”

    “Did you ever find out how old he is?” Travis asked.

    “Turned fifteen in May,” Katrina answered. “Oh – and get this. You know how he said Madeline beat him?”

    “Yeah...so she’d be the defending Champion this year, right?” Travis questioned.

    “Actually, according to Brad, she just took the trophy and left. They had to have an entirely new tournament to decide who would defend the title next year,” Katrina said. “Guess she didn’t like the idea of staying in one place for a year.”

    “Guess not,” Travis laughed.

    “Will Travis DePaul and Brad Carmichael please come to the arena? Your match is about to start,” a referee with a megaphone got Travis’ attention immediately. He gave a start, and Katrina giggled.

    “Guess it’s go time,” he said nonchalantly.

    “Have a plan for stopping Cactadder yet?” Katrina asked.

    “My best stuff’s on the fly – I’ll tell you after I get up there,” Travis answered. Katrina shook her head.

    “Good luck,” she said, laying one on his lips before returning to her spot. He smiled and made his way up to the platform. As he watched her sit down, he saw Matthew lock eyes with him. In that second, they communicated wordlessly:

    You’d better win, gunslinger.
    I can handle this. You just focus on your own match.


    His feet felt the sand under them as he looked across at the curly-haired teen, who leapt up onto the arena coolly and confidently.

    “Let’s see how this plays out!” Brad shouted. “Come on, I’ve got three phone numbers riding on this match!”

    “That’s too bad,” Travis responded. “I thought you were here to win. Oh, well – how’s this sound? I eliminate you from the tournament, then you have all the time in the world to talk to girls. Everyone wins, right?”

    “If you think you’ll get rid of me that easily, you’re dead wrong!” Brad yelled.

    “BEGIN THE MATCH!” the referee shouted, raising both of the flags.

    “First off!” Brad yelled, throwing his Pokéball into the air. “Elekid!!”

    “Eh...” Travis grunted as he saw the creature – yellow and black, with what looked like a plug sticking out of his head. He hadn’t planned to see an Elekid – he’d have to rely on a pseudo-type advantage. “Okay...Champ, let’s go!”


    The Treecko burst forth from his ball with a backflip and eyed Elekid, who swung his arms as the plug on his head crackled with electricity.

    “Champ, use Abs–“ Travis started...but Brad was too fast for him.

    “Elekid, Quick Attack!” he shouted. No sooner than he had issued the order, Elekid was off. He came in a golden blur toward Champ, who had no time to react...

    WHAM.

    The crowd let out a collective groan as Champ took a nasty clothesline to the throat and rotated very strangely in midair. He struggled to his feet and his bulbous, yellow eyes narrowed to slits. Elekid’s clawed fist came barreling into Champ’s field of vision. The Wood Gecko Pokémon ducked under the fist only to see another one. He jumped away from Elekid, landed immediately, and pivoted, aiming his tail right at Elekid’s head. Elekid blocked the Pound with one arm.

    “Thunder Punch!” yelled Brad. Elekid’s crackling fist came in hard and fast, but not fast enough.

    “Champ – block it and use Iron Tail!” Travis ordered. Using his forearms, Champ stopped Elekid’s electrified punch in its tracks. With one huge heave, the Treecko swung Elekid’s arm outside, leaving his body exposed. With two steps, Champ used Elekid as a stepladder, spinning around quickly and delivering a crushing blow with his glowing tail. Champ made contact, sending Elekid sprawling across the arena of sand. The resilient Electric-type managed to roll to his feet after a while, but the last attack had obviously done some damage.

    “Not bad,” Brad commented. “Not bad at all. But it’ll take more than that to beat my Elekid!”

    “There’s more where that came from,” Travis answered. “Trust me.”

    “Elekid, use Quick Attack!” Brad ordered.

    “Champ, you, too!!” Travis shouted.

    The two Pokémon became blurs skirting over the surface of sand. In the center, they met and bounced off one another...

    ...Then again...

    ...and again...

    ...and again.

    “They’re an even match!” Matthew commented.

    “Come on...” Katrina craned her neck to get a better view of the action.

    “Thunder Punch!” Brad shouted. Elekid reappeared, skidded to a stop, then took off toward Champ, who planted his feet in the sand and braced.

    “Champ, stand your ground!” Travis yelled. Elekid came with the punch...

    Champ caught Elekid’s arm, negating nearly all damage from the attack as a spiral of sand surrounded the two.

    “He blocked it!” Brad groaned.


    “Champ, push him back!” Travis commanded. The two Pokémon grappled, each struggling to acquire his footing on the gritty terrain.

    “Thunder Punch!” Brad shouted. Instantly, Champ’s arms withdrew from Elekid’s as if he had sustained a burn, leaving him virtually defenseless when Elekid’s fist approached...

    Champ took the blow on the chin and went airborne.

    “Damn!!” Matt groaned. Champ recovered in midair, skidded to a stop on one knee, and looked up –

    “Finish him off! Another Thunder Punch!” Brad yelled. Travis smirked. He was ready.

    “Store energy for Iron Tail – but don’t use it!” Travis said loudly enough for Champ to hear.

    “<Don’t quite understand the game plan here, but if you say so...>” he said, closing his eyes as his tail began to glow a bright white.

    “Iron Tail again?” Matt muttered.

    “What’s Travis waiting for?” Katrina wondered.

    Elekid continued to approach...

    “You’re running out of time, come on...” Katrina whispered...but Matt’s patience was spent.

    “HEY! PAY ATTENTION – YOUR TREECKO’S ABOUT TO GET KNOCKED INTO NEXT WEEK!”

    “Take him down!!” Brad shouted.

    “Stand in there and take the shot,” Travis said calmly. He was relying on the mental and physical toughness of his Pokémon – things he knew came in spades when it came to Champ.

    With a soft sound of thunder, Elekid laid into Champ’s green jaw with a right hook, knocking the Grass Pokémon backward a step, but no more. In fact, other than a slight disturbance of the sand around Champ’s feet, it looked like the attack had done no more damage than a normal punch.

    “<Whoa...that felt weird,>” Champ said, shaking his head slightly.

    “What happened?” Brad asked.

    “Now, go, Champ!” Travis shouted, before Brad had a chance to react. “Crackling Iron Tail!”

    Champ, his tail coursing with electricity, rammed Elekid, knocking him into the air ever so slightly. Spinning on the spot, he delivered the lashing tail attack. A lightning bolt tore across Elekid’s torso as the Iron Tail hit him, sending him barrel-rolling sideways. He landed on the ground and skidded, leaving a trail in the sand of the battlefield before finally coming to a rest at Brad’s feet, unconscious.

    “Return!” Brad groaned, summoning Elekid back into his Pokéball as the referee made the announcement of Travis’ victory. “You used Elekid’s own electricity against him. How did you do that?”

    “A little knowledge I picked up from the last time I used Iron Tail on a Pokémon that knew Electric attacks,” Travis answered simply.

    May 27, PA 2013 – Rustboro Gym

    Sighing heavily, Travis returned his Pokémon. He looked up at the black-haired gym leader and smirked.


    “Don’t start scheduling the rematch just yet – we’re just getting warmed up!” Travis shouted, pulling out a Pokéball and throwing it. Out of it burst a green, bipedal, lizard-like creature.

    “<Alright! Game time!>” Champ the Treecko shouted to announce his presence.

    “Game time, indeed,” Travis echoed, smiling.

    “Treecko – you have no idea how many times I’ve battled a Treecko since I became Gym Leader,” Roxanne commented. “Grass-types with good parameters...but their move pool is limited, to say the least.”

    “How’s this for a limited move pool?” Travis shouted. “Champ, use Iron Tail!”

    “<Pullin’ out the big stick early, huh?>” Champ quipped before rushing toward Nosepass, his prominent tail glowing a brilliant white. He leapt into the air and landed on Nosepass’ head tail-first. Champ leapt off, revealing that the area that would be Nosepass’ forehead was now very slightly cracked. Champ landed and turned around.

    “Rock Throw!” Roxanne yelled. Nosepass glowed a faint electric blue. He appeared to be causing small rocks to hover with electromagnetic energy. With a burst of power, the rocks zipped away from Nosepass and toward Champ. Champ avoided the first one. He was hit square in the belly by the second and third, and took the fourth off the top of the head.

    “Iron Tail again!” Travis shouted.

    “That’s a Steel-type attack! You know what to do this time, Nosepass!” Roxanne yelled. At the very moment that Champ’s tail began to glow that bright white again, he felt himself being inescapably and invisibly yanked tail-first toward Nosepass. After several seconds, he found himself sitting on the top of Nosepass’ huge, stone nose...

    ...unable to escape.

    “Your entire Pokémon doesn’t become a Steel-type when it uses Iron Tail...but its tail does, obviously,” Roxanne said with a smirk. “Metal conducts electricity, so what should I do here...Nosepass, use Thunderbolt!”


    “When I stored up the energy for Iron Tail,” Travis explained, “I knew that once Elekid hit Champ with the Thunder Punch, all the juice would go right to Champ’s tail. Of course, normally, that would have blown off Champ’s backside...”

    “<You tell me this now?!>” Champ shouted at him. Travis laughed.

    “But the terrain saved Champ from getting overloaded. All the extra energy Champ couldn’t handle went straight down,” Travis said, pointing at the sand.

    “Because sand doesn’t conduct,” Brad muttered. “How could I have missed –“

    “Well, he’s back to form,” Matt sighed, leaning back seemingly in resignation.

    “You sound nervous,” Mariah commented.


    “You see, this is what I’m talking about,” Matt said, half laughing. “You get him in a one-on-one battle, and he’ll pull **** like this. I’m telling you – he’s a freaking superman. His brain doesn’t work like ours. It’d be hard enough to beat him if he just knew his types like the back of his hand – he knew from the jump that Elekid wouldn’t be able to do as much damage to Champ because Treecko is a Grass-type...but he takes everything into account. Everything. Tendencies of nature, weather, arena – he always knows something you don’t, and that’s why he’s so damn hard to beat.”

    “He was a bookworm when we were little,” Katrina said, observing her boyfriend as he returned his Treecko back to the ball, took a bit of a circling walk, and planted himself in the Trainer’s Box again.

    “Why am I not surprised?” Matt sighed.

    “But it’s paid off for him,” Katrina said. “Beating him goes past just defeating the Pokémon he uses. You have to outsmart him, and that’s the hard part. Anything he knows – anything he’s ever learned – can be used as a shield to defend himself, or a weapon to attack you. He’s good...and he knows he’s good. That’s why he wants to be Champion more than anyone else.”

    “What do you mean by that?” Matt asked. “One thing I remember about him – he never cared much about his own achievements. It always took someone else reminding him that he had a reputation to defend. But he ‘knew he was good’? What do you mean by that?”

    “I mean that...he knew that, if he ever had an actual shot, he’d be able to do it,” Katrina replied, looking ahead. “As much as you feel you got robbed of your chance when the Johto League got cancelled two years ago...he feels ten times worse.”

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  3. #153
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    May 2005
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    Maryland
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    ~~~ *** ~~~

    “Asylum...in another country?” Creon sat down, muttering numbly. He buried his face in his right hand wearily, leaning against the table. “You mean, leave Hoenn?”

    “Unless you have a better option,” Kenjiro said, peering over his folded hands at the younger of the two magicians.

    “But...” Creon uttered.

    “I will make the journey alone, if necessary,” Hong Liu declared. Kenjiro figured that he’d missed something.

    “No! I could not ask you to do that, Master!” Creon exclaimed. He seemed desperate. “But still...my wife and child...”

    “Wife and child?” Kenjiro repeated. Now he knew that he’d missed something.

    As if to answer his questions, the door opened behind him to reveal a young woman of nearly thirty.

    “So, this is your wife...” he muttered.

    “Oh, Creon, this is where you were,” the woman said. “This red-haired girl is outside. She’s a sweetheart, but she seems too afraid to come in.”

    “Reivyn...” Kenjiro muttered, having nearly forgotten that she was out there. “At least she didn’t wander off.”

    “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced,” the woman said. “My name is Agnes St. Galtea. Creon is my husband.”

    “I figured that out already. I’m Kenjiro Kazaki. I have a message from Prince Elrik,” Kenjiro answered. Two gasps from the other side of him indicated that there must have been something that he had forgotten to tell Hong Liu and Creon about himself.

    “Prince Elrik himself sent you?” Creon asked. “You neglected to tell us that.”

    “You have to understand,” Kenjiro replied calmly. “Edgar – guided by his advisor Gorba, of course – chased Elrik from the castle after their father died. Elrik was going to give up any right he had to the throne to avoid a civil war...but then, something happened.”

    “What?” Creon asked.

    “It’s very personal,” Kenjiro asked. “I don’t even know all of the details. In any case, for the last six months, we’ve been rounding up supporters.”

    “Supporters?” Creon asked. “For what?”



    Reivyn had been left all alone outside this strange cottage-in-a-cave. She found, though, that she rather enjoyed the solitude. No one to talk to her, no one to lie to her, no secrets for her to have to figure out.

    It was quiet...

    SMASH.

    Reivyn gasped and looked toward her left, down the pathway that led to this area, when she heard the noise echo off the rocks in this large cavern. She heard a gruff yell.

    “Damn it, Moriard! Be more careful!! What if you set off another one with all the racket you’re making?!”

    “There aren’t any more traps, Galvant!” The voice of a second man joined the first.

    “Sure, there aren’t any more traps – don’t come crying to me if you get your head chopped off or end up with an dart stuck up your –“

    I get it!” the second voice groaned. “You just stay alert.”

    “You think something’s coming to get us, do you?” the man apparently named Galvant asked.

    Reivyn heard a familiar clanking sound and looked behind her. No one was stirring in the cottage. She would have to investigate herself. Whoever these two men were, it didn’t sound like they were here for a cup of tea. Reivyn took off running down the stone pathway and listened as the voices grew closer and closer. She turned a corner, stopped at the last second, and threw herself behind a wall as she nearly ran straight into the men.

    There were not two, as she’d thought.

    ...more like an even dozen, all in black armor and armed with either swords or spears. The man in front had short, lank, black hair that fell in curtains around his eyes. He also had blue eyes and a particularly fierce-looking line of facial hair that started below his lower lip and shot straight down the center of his chin. The man right behind him had wild, spiky, burgundy hair sitting on the top of his young-looking face. He also had both of his ears pierced with golden hoops. His eyes were a darker blue than the other man’s. The other ten soldiers all had helmets and assortments of facial hair or lack thereof. She knew this armor. They started walking, their armor clanking in the space of this large area. Reivyn had to think fast. She knew that the soldiers could soon be upon her. She could be attacked just for looking suspicious –

    And because she was female.

    She readied her knives behind her back, just in case, and stepped out.


    “HEY!” the young, burgundy-haired knight shouted, pulling out a long sword and pointing it at Reivyn, who froze. After a tense moment, he lowered his blade and commented, “Oh, it’s just a girl. Hey, she doesn’t look half bad! What brings you to these parts, cutie pie?”

    “Moriard!” the black-haired knight groaned with displeasure as some of the soldiers laughed.

    “What’s a sweet thing like you doin’ all by herself in this cave here?” Moriard asked. “Or maybe...maybe you’re not all by yourself. Wouldn’t happen to know an old geezer by the name of Hong Liu, wouldja?”

    Reivyn gulped.

    “I don’t...know what you’re talking about,” she said a bit too slowly.

    “Now, come on,” Moriard sighed cajolingly, fingering his blade. “I’d really hate to do any damage to that pretty face of yours, but if you don’t tell us where the old coot is, we’ll have to hurt you.”

    “What do you want with him?” she asked.

    “We want a word – that’s all,” Galvant answered the question instead. His voice was low and gruff, but there was something about the coldness in his eyes that Reivyn didn’t like much.

    “A word?” she asked defensively. “What about?”

    “Well, there’s a warrant out for his arrest,” Moriard answered simply.

    “For what crime?” Reivyn asked.

    “No idea,” Moriard said, shrugging carelessly. “They pass down the orders, I just follow ‘em. Besides, who says someone needs to be a criminal in order for the Imperial Knights to arr–“

    “So, there’s no crime?” Reivyn asked. “You’re going to just take him – just like that?”

    “Y’know what?” Moriard said, a vein going in his temple. “You’re bein’ a right little ***** right now and I don’t think I like your attitude. Take her!”

    He snapped his finger and one soldier carrying a sword lumbered toward her. He swung with his blade and barely missed. Reivyn planted her feet, then leapt, driving her front foot directly into the knight’s armored chest. It was probably right at this point that Reivyn realized that she’d gotten herself into a little bit of trouble. The black-clad knight left the ground for a moment before landing on his fundament at Moriard’s feet. Galvant raised an eyebrow.

    “Interesting...” he muttered.

    “What the hell?!” Moriard seemed to be losing his cool. “You pathetic sack of crap! You call yourself an Imperial Knight? You just got knocked on your *** by a little girl!!”

    “Let’s kill her and be done with it,” Galvant said calmly. He seemed to be the cooler head of the two, despite what Reivyn had heard from the initial conversation. “That strategy’s always worked before. Whatever you’re going to do, make it quick.”

    “We working on a deadline that I don’t know about?” Moriard asked loudly.

    “Well, I’m just saying, before they know we’re coming. We have no idea how powerful this guy is,” Galvant said. “So I think it’d be best if we just –“

    “The guy’s a hundred and fifty million years old, Galvant,” Moriard groaned, rolling his dark blue eyes. “The only thing strong about him is his breath, more than likely. You don’t honestly believe all that ******** about him being a wizard, do you?”


    “I’m not taking the chance that it’s true, I know that much,” Galvant said. Taking a deep breath, he took one step toward Reivyn, brandishing a spear about two yards in length. Its head seemed to be made like the shortened version of a sword blade, capable of cutting as well as stabbing. “We’ll give you one more chance. Either tell us where Hong Liu is, or move the hell out of the way.”

    Reivyn stepped backward silently.

    Two steps...three steps...

    “Too slow!” Moriard shouted, yanking a spear from one of the knights and hurling it.



    There was silence in the study of Hong Liu as Kenjiro finished explaining the situation concerning Prince Elrik and the Emerald Knights, as well as his own role in the grand scheme of things.

    “Of course,” Kenjiro said calmly, “If you weren’t hermits living miles away from civilization, I’d have to kill all of you at this point. But I trust you won’t go squealing to anyone. After all...you don’t want to get on my bad side.”

    “How dare you threaten –“ Creon stood up, but Kenjiro, holding both palms out, cut him off.

    “It’s not threatening, it’s a matter of security,” he said. “Exiled he might be, but this is still a member of the royal family we’re talking about here. Now...I think you have some explaining to do, Creon. You claim you have a child, and yet I have not seen him...or her, whatever the case is.”

    “I wasn’t clear enough,” Creon sighed. “I meant that we have a child on the way. My point was that, out of the three of us here, I might be the only one up for a long voyage into another country. Of course, if it’s Master Hong we have to move, that doesn’t help anybody, but...”

    Creon stopped short as he heard a bloodcurdling shriek that made even his long, lank hair stand on end.

    “What the hell?!” Creon muttered. Kenjiro already knew ‘what the hell’, so to speak. As soon as the scream rang out, he stood up quickly, overturning the chair and loudly repeating a string of various four-letter words as he exited the cottage.

    “That dear girl...” Agnes sighed. “If she’s in danger from something, that must mean...”

    “We’ve got company,” Creon made his way around the table, grabbing his staff. “I never imagined this day would come...”

    “Ah...” Hong Liu closed his eyes and bore a facial expression that made him appear tired. “I knew they would catch up with me eventually.”

    “Master Hong – Agnes – stay here,” Creon said with great urgency as he exited.

    “Be careful!” Agnes shouted after him, opening the door to watch her husband leave. Uttering a sigh, she commented to Hong Liu, “I’m sorry, Master. Normally, I would be out there fighting with him...I feel so useless.”

    “Do not say that,” Hong Liu answered. With a sigh, he stood up, bowed with age, and said, “A good young person respects their elders...but a good old person also knows the value of the future. Creon is prepared to give his life not so much for me, but for you...and the child you are carrying.”




    Reivyn kept her eyes shut tight. She kept waiting for the pain, but it never came. Had it really been that quick? Moriard must have been very accurate with the spear – it had to have hit her right in the heart and killed her instantly. She squinted, wondering for a moment what her beyond what look like –

    Then, with a jolt of the heart, she realized that she was still in the cave, quite alive. Moreover, several people were in front of her. A tall man directly in front of her with short, ash-blond hair and wearing green and black attire...

    Green-and-black attire??

    She stepped backward and saw that this man had caught the spear.

    “You don’t kill this girl, got that?” the man said, staring right at Moriard, who looked like he’d just seen a ghost. “She’s out of your jurisdiction.”

    “She’s in our way,” Moriard said impatiently. “And so are you, for that matter. This doesn’t concern you.”

    “Apparently, we’re looking for two different people,” the blond-haired man pointed out. “You can have the old man – we’re here for the girl.”

    “Looks like you solved our problem for us,” Moriard said, tilting his head. “I suppose thanks are in order. After all, we’re all friends here, aren’t we?”

    “In a manner of speaking,” the tow-headed man replied, turning around so that Reivyn got a good look at his face. He had apple-green eyes and a long nose, as well as a scar on the right side of his mouth...

    Reivyn had seen this face before!

    She stifled another scream and stumbled backward.

    “You’re unnecessarily afraid,” the man said. “I come to give you something that no one else has.”

    Reivyn looked up at him.

    “If you surrender quietly and come with us,” he said silkily. “I am offering you a chance at redemption. I believe that the execution of someone as skilled as you would be a waste. If you come with me...all will be forgiven.”


    Champ staggered backward and then collapsed forward, favoring his right arm all the way to the ground.

    “One...two...three...four...five! Treecko is unable to battle! The winner is Cactadder!!” the referee announced to mixed cheers and groans.

    “I didn’t think it’d be that easy for him,” Matt sighed as Travis returned his Pokémon. “Brad is a former Champion, after all...”

    Travis surveyed the sand field. It was now full of holes where Cactadder had burrowed into the sand and reappeared. This took him slightly by surprise, as Cactadder didn’t display that talent whenever Travis had seen Brad use him. Travis was now faced with a choice – use Angel now, knowing that she would be needed in his match with Matt (or Liza Flynn, in the unlikely event that the latter won), or trust Meru to pick up the victory. Of course, Angel’s type advantage over the Poison-type Cactadder prompted Travis to lean a bit more in her direction. Then again, it wouldn’t hurt to give Meru some needed battle experience against this strong opponent...


    Matt had that Combusken, and Travis knew that, for the sake of self-redemption, Angel would want to be that Combusken’s opponent. Truth be told, either Meru or Angel would work against Combusken –

    But that was a worry best saved for a few minutes from now. He had to win this match first.

    “Don’t tell me you’re having trouble?” Brad yelled across the arena. “You know which of your Pokémon has the advantage – send her out already.”

    Travis smirked once he realized something, pulling out his Pokéball.

    “Meru, let’s GO!” he shouted, tossing the ball into the air. The Kitide contained within burst out and stared down Cactadder, who was rearing up into an attacking position.

    “So, you want to try things the hard way, hm?” Brad asked with a smirk.

    “You’re no rookie,” Travis said. “You were hoping I’d use Angel because you had something waiting.”

    “Question is, is that cute little furball strong enough to win against my Cactadder?” Brad asked. Travis did a double take for a second because he thought he literally saw smoke coming out of Meru’s ears.

    “We’re about to find out, aren’t we?” Travis replied confidently.

    “BEGIN!” the referee shouted.

    “Cactadder, underground, now!” Brad shouted. Cactadder uncoiled to its full length of nearly four feet, slipping into one of the existing holes in the sand. Travis grimaced.

    “Damn it,” he muttered. “There’s about ten holes he could come out of...and that’s if he’s not digging a new one. I gotta flush him out somehow...there! Meru, Water Gun straight into the ground!”

    Meru leapt and aimed a Water Gun straight into the sand. A second later, geysers of water gushed from half of the holes, turning the field rather muddy. Travis bit his lip in frustration as Meru landed, looking around.

    BANG.

    An explosion of sand shot up from the ground, and when the dust cleared, Cactadder was right behind Meru. She turned around, but too late...

    “Gotcha,” Brad croaked with a smirk. “Cactadder, Bind!!”

    The Needle Pokémon slithered close around Meru in an embrace of death and then contracted.

    Travis winced and groaned, almost as if the many spines on Cactadder’s body were piercing his own skin.

    Meru snarled and tried to hang tough as the spines went further and further into all sides of her body. It felt like everything was on fire. Worse, though, was the feeling of helplessness – a feeling that she had felt too many times before. The images of a Tentacool swam in front of her blurring vision. Would she
    need someone to save her this time?

    Would she always be a liability?

    Enough.

    She opened her mouth and let out a loud scream that contained all of her pain and frustration. Both Trainers groaned and went for their ears simultaneously.


    “Agh...****!!” Matthew cursed, his eyes shut tight. He was standing up, but he quickly went to his knees and curled up into a ball. “No...stop it! Make it stop, damn it!!”

    Katrina was instantly distracted. Something was wrong.

    “Ngh...” Travis groaned as the sound continued. Meanwhile, Matthew was curled up tight on the ground and screaming whilst Mariah and Katrina tried to comfort him, the latter of the two wondering what the hell was going on with him.

    Cactadder released Meru and wobbled to Brad’s side of the field.

    “God, that’s awful,” Travis grunted with a shudder as he opened his Pokédex. “What the hell was that?”

    If a Kitide finds itself in danger, it will emit a loud screeching sound that affects the balance and coordination of would-be predators,” the Pokédex droned its explanation.

    “Supersonic...” Travis muttered.

    Meanwhile, Matt finally staggered to his feet. Katrina got a look at his face. He had gone a greenish-white color and sweat was literally dripping from his face.

    “Matt, are you –“ Katrina opened her mouth to ask. Matt, groaning, staggered past her and Mariah, fumbling his way inland like one who had indulged in liquid pleasure a bit too much, until he reached a trash can. Katrina was at a distance, but a loud groan and a nasty retching sound told the whole story. Mariah was the first to approach him, and she had gone very white as well.

    “Matt, are you okay? Are you there? Say something!” she shouted. Matt steadied himself. “If you’re not feeling well, maybe you should drop out –“

    “HELL, NO! ARE YOU NUTS?!” Matt shouted. Mariah was frightened into silence. Matt, realizing how harsh he’d just been, shook his head. “I don’t drop out, you got that? I need to take a walk – clear my head a little.”

    “I’ll come with you, then,” Mariah said – but as she’d somehow expected, Matt held up a hand to shoo her away.

    “I need to be alone,” he declared, trudging off slowly. It was at this point that Katrina approached Mariah, having missed Matt by about ten paces or so. She looked over her shoulder at Travis, who had resumed his battle with Brad and had gained the upper hand due to Cactadder’s confusion.



    Five minutes later, Matt found himself on a corner of the beach. Instead of sand, this part of the coastline was covered with rocks and small stones that could fit into one’s hand. Matt had taken to sitting on one of these larger rocks alone, skipping rocks on the water. After flinging yet another one, he stopped for a second and went into a pocket on his vest. He now clenched in his fist a necklace. It was made from links of what appeared to be a very good imitation of silver. The charm on the end was made from real silver and appeared to be a profile of a Pidgeot (a species that could be found in Johto, normally as the leader of a flock of Pidgey and/or Pidgeotto) spreading its wings.

    It had been nearly ten years since he had received this. In exchange, he had given a promise...a promise that he would grow strong. In making that promise, he promised himself that, until he felt that he was strong enough to be a Champion, he would never wear it.

    He had failed again. He was still the same weak, little boy that left Cherrygrove, always expecting others to fight his battles for him. Despite all he had done since he had arrived here, there was still such a long way to go.


    Was that it?

    Was he that irreparably weak?

    “You’re not still sick, are you?” a voice rang from Matthew’s right. Mariah was walking up to him, her sable hair out and dangling over her right eye slightly.

    “I told you not to follow me,” Matthew muttered.

    “When did I start doing what I was told?” Mariah answered sassily. Matthew laughed in spite of himself as Mariah skipped up onto the rock and took a seat right next to him. “What are you doing all the way out here?”

    Her eyes strayed to Matthew’s hand – she had seen the necklace many times before.

    “Oh...” she uttered.

    “I know, you’re gonna tell me to get over it, right?” Matthew asked bitterly. “I know already – the world isn’t gonna wait for me to deal with my ****.”

    “I wasn’t going to say anything like that,” Mariah answered rather defensively.

    “But that’s the truth, isn’t it?” Matthew shot back quickly. He stood up and took a deep breath. “Listen, I can’t do this anymore.”

    “What are you talking –“ Mariah started, but Matt cut her off.

    “I won’t hurt anybody else by being a liability,” Matthew said. “You deserve someone strong...and I can’t do it.”

    “Of course you can’t – because that’s what you keep telling yourself, right?” Mariah said. “That you’re weak? That you’re not good enough? How the hell do you expect yourself to become a Champion thinking like that?”

    “I don’t know, but I’ve gotta find a way, damn it!!” Matt yelled, clenching the necklace in his hand harder than ever. “He did. I won’t lie and say that he’s got it all together, but the fact that he hasn’t cracked completely is a miracle! What the hell’s he got that I don’t?!”

    “I’m not sure, but...” Mariah muttered.

    “I refuse to believe that I can’t be his equal! That just doesn’t work for me!!” Matt yelled. Holding the chain up to Mariah’s face, he continued to shout, “What about my brother, huh?! Knowing how pathetic I am must have him turning over in his grave right now!!”

    “You shouldn’t say things like that...” Mariah said, her voice cracking. She buried her face in her knees. “Please, don’t do this...”

    “Why not?!” Matt shouted. “I’m the one that wants this! I’m the one that has to get by, and I won’t accept the fact that I’m just one of those people that’s destined to crash and burn!”

    “Matthew!!” Matt heard another voice to his right. He turned in that direction and saw the people that, somehow, he wanted to see.

    Travis and Katrina watched as Matthew leapt from the rock and covered the several dozen yards in almost no time at all. Before Travis had time to register what was going on, Matt had torn across the beach and –

    SMACK!


    – laid into Travis’ face with an open palm. Travis staggered, every fiber in his being wishing to pull his sword on Matthew Marius, but then realizing that he had left it in his room at the Pokémon Center a mile or two away.

    “So, what’s your secret, huh?!” Matthew spat desperately, grabbing onto Travis’ shirt. “You tell me how I’m supposed to find any strength at all when it feels like I’m dead inside!! I know that you’re not just ignoring everything you saw and had to do that summer, so how the hell do you deal with it without falling to pieces – all on your own?”

    “All on my own – you think that’s how I did it?” Travis spat, not looking at Matthew yet. “It’s when you get to where you are now that you have to realize that you can’t do it on your own.”

    “Oh, really? But you can,” Matthew replied bitterly.

    “No,” Travis said. “Is that what you’ve thought about me all these years? You’ve got me all wrong. You’ve been looking for something special that just isn’t there.“

    “If that’s true, then it’s something I should be able to do, too,” Matthew said. “You get your strength from somewhere. If it’s not the sword...”

    “It’s the people around me,” Travis finally explained. “The people I know care about me. I get strength from them.”

    He looked up and saw a fair weather cloud that, before it was blown apart by a rushing wind, became for a moment the image of an old, wise and caring face that he had known as a small child.

    “Even the ones that aren’t with us anymore,” he sighed. “They’re there, too, if you look hard enough.”

    “But the last thing you want to do...” Katrina finished, pointing with her chin. “...is push them away.”

    A black-haired teenage girl approached Matthew. He felt another hand close around the necklace in his own hand and looked to his right. At that moment, Travis felt an elbow make contact with his ribs.

    “I was wrong about you,” Travis said quickly. “I thought you didn’t really care about what happened to your family...”

    “That’s because I tried not caring – thought it would hurt less,” Matt answered, looking down at the hand that was clasping the hand holding the necklace that once belonged to his brother. Mariah’s hands were closing his right one into a fist.

    “Go on,” she said. Matthew looked at her for a second, and let the necklace out to its full length. He thought about it for a second, then stopped, giving Mariah a look. Mariah understood what this look meant and gasped. “Are you sure?”

    “Yeah – I’m sure,” Matthew answered, giving Mariah the necklace. She spread it out and gently slipped it around Matthew’s head.

    “Look sort of familiar to you?” Katrina whispered into Travis’ ear.

    “Yeah,” Travis answered, fighting down a laugh.

    The Pidgeot charm came to a rest about eight inches under his chin, where it hung and gleamed in the sunlight. Matthew looked up at Travis and Katrina, and there was a look in his jade-green eyes that the latter recognized very well.

    “Your match is next,” Travis said.

    “I know,” Matthew said, grabbing Mariah’s hand and walking past Travis and Katrina. He went a few steps and stopped. “You know,” he said, while the two boys had their backs turned to each other, “Are you sure about this? You might regret it later.”

    Travis let out a laugh.

    “Good rivals bring out the best in each other,” he said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    “Whatever floats your boat,” Matthew said nonchalantly, beginning to walk off. “But, just for the record...you’re right.”

    This left Travis and Katrina alone at this spot on the beach.

    Travis walked away from Katrina a few steps, picking up a rock from the ground.

    “You know...” he said, tossing the rock toward the water, where it skipped away from him several times before going under with a loud plop. “...he never said why Meru’s Supersonic jacked him up like that.”

    “Maybe it’s not for us to know right now,” Katrina answered.

    “I never would have guessed that he thought so much about his brother and sister,” Travis sighed. “He’s more like me than I thought...”

    “I’m glad you finally see that,” Katrina replied, now sounding a bit stern. “At first, you just hated him because...I’m not sure why. The only thing I could figure out was that it was because he somehow reminded you of everything that had happened. Or maybe, you just needed somewhere to direct all of that anger...”

    “You don’t have to rub it in,” Travis said uncomfortably. “You’re more in tune with people’s feelings than I am.”

    “That’s because I had to figure out the secret a while before you did,” Katrina said, approaching Travis. “Helping someone else overcome their pain makes yours feel a lot smaller.”

    Travis smiled.

    “Our first tournament was kind of like this one, remember?” he asked. “Two years ago...”

    “You won that one, didn’t you?” Katrina asked.

    “It kind of went all haywire after the first couple of matches,” Travis said. “Shiro dropped out, then you drew with Yoshina...”

    “All eight of us had something to do with the war, didn’t we?” Katrina commented. “Small world.”

    “Yeah,” Travis repeated. “Small world.”

    Travis and Katrina looked at each other for a moment. Travis, who had a stone in his hand, allowed it to slip from his hand and fall to the ground with a clatter as each continued to stare at the other. Katrina laughed.

    “You’re teasing me,” she said.

    “No, I’m not,” Travis replied. Katrina let out a short squeal as Travis playfully ran a finger along her neck.

    “Stop it already,” she laughed.


    “Make me,” Travis answered. Katrina jumped into his arms, kissing him before he had a chance to react.

    They broke apart after several moments, and Travis smiled.

    “When I’m with you, my life isn’t so complicated,” he said to her. Her mind went back to something that someone had said to her only a couple of days ago. For a moment, she kissed him even more vigorously than she had the first time.

    “That is one of the cheesiest things you have ever said to me,” she said. Travis had a momentary look of shock on his face as if someone had just pulled a Madeline on him right before Katrina smiled and said, “but it’s one of the sweetest, too.”

    “I try,” Travis said, throwing an arm around her. She leaned against his shoulder and they began to walk.

    “So, what’d I miss?” Katrina said – she had left to talk to Mariah before Travis’ match had ended.

    “Not much – Cactadder tried to use Bind on himself and tied himself into a knot,” Travis said, fighting down a laugh. “Then I had Meru use Water Gun to blast him into next Thursday. You should have seen the look on Brad’s face. He looked like a Psyduck.”

    Travis did an imitation of a Psyduck with a particularly bad headache and Katrina laughed again.

    “I wonder where Kenjiro and Reivyn are?” Katrina asked.

    “Probably back at the hotel or on the town somewhere,” Travis replied. “I wouldn’t worry about them too much. One thing we know about Kenjiro is that he can take care of himself. As long as he and Reivyn haven’t gotten separated, they should both be fine.”


    “What do you say, hm?” the man with ash-blond hair had extended his hand to Reivyn. His fingers were long and skinny and had a pallid look about them. Moriard and Galvant, along with their unit of Imperial Knights, looked on as this standoff continued to unfold. “If you reaffirm your loyalty to the Temple, there’ll be no need to kill you. It’s a fortunate thing for you that you’re only a priestess, and know next to nothing about the secrets of the Shoryuu. A Temple Knight in your situation would probably be executed.”

    “Did someone say something about executing Temple Knights?” Reivyn’s heart leapt into her throat as she heard a familiar voice. Around the corner came two men. One of them had bronze-colored hair and was unarmed. The other was carrying a staff and seemed to be staring a hole through the servants of the Temple, right to the battalion of Imperial Knights behind them. The bronze-haired youth spoke again. “I’d like to be in on that action.”

    The blond-haired Temple Knight looked like he’d just seen a ghost.

    “You’re dead!” he gasped.

    “Nope,” Kenjiro Kazaki said nonchalantly, a fire in his eyes. “I’m more alive than I’ve ever been in my life.”

    As he said this, he stepped in front of Reivyn and gently pushed her behind him. He was nose to nose with the Temple Knight, who was the same height as he. Kenjiro smiled.

    “Wow, Reivyn, you must really be something for them to send five guys after you at the same time,” he said loudly. “Especially when one of them’s a second-class Temple Knight.”

    “Soon to be First-Class Temple Knight Vausin,” the man said. “Once I take the girl with me.”

    He shoved Kenjiro out of the way and made a beeline toward Reivyn.

    “And if I have a problem with that, Vausin?” Kenjiro asked calmly.

    “Careful,” Temple Knight Vausin said silkily. “If you keep your mouth shut, I might just let you run around for another day before we kill you.”

    “Put a hand on Reivyn and I’ll be the one to kill you first,” Kenjiro said sharply. Vausin, who had extended his hand toward Reivyn again, backed off and turned toward Kenjiro, laughing.

    “You’re a real trip, you know that?” Vausin chuckled. “This is why the outside world is so dangerous.”

    Without any kind of warning or time for Kenjiro to defend himself, Vausin slapped him. Kenjiro reeled for a moment and turned his hard eyes back toward Vausin, a red welt now shining on the left side of his face. Vausin took a deep, satisfied breath – like the eerie silence before the bombshell.

    “You know, little girl, if I was in your situation,” Vausin said, “I’d find it difficult to trust Kenjiro Kazaki – what with the fact that he was a second-class Temple Knight.”

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  4. #154
    Join Date
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    Cool First in line again!

    I love WiFi... i have the power!

    Just ended lectures for the day. I'm reading this right now!

    I'll be back!

    Back to the action!

    LOL at Cactadder! Tying himself in a knot! So Travis beat Brad and Matt almost loses his grip.

    Kenjiro a Temple Knight! Hm, didn't see that one coming! So is he into capturing Reivyn himself for redemption or is Templeshipping about to get a new twist?

    Meru pwns again! Champ does too!

    To quote DarkPersian479, Stop! Grammar Time!

    walls, rather high bookshelves lined the walls on the rooms far corners
    walls, rather high bookshelves lined the walls on the room’s far corners

    looked across at the curly-haired teen, who leapt
    looked across at the curly-haired teen, who’d leapt

    Well, i gotta run...

    WIRELESS BROWSING ROCKS!!!

    L@er!

    P.S. Did you get my email?
    Last edited by Air Dragon; 3rd September 2007 at 2:48 PM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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  5. #155
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    Default

    I'll be correcting again, starting from this chapter, as long as its over the weekends I think I can manage ^^

    . Two, eight-inch-long knives with diamond-shaped cross sections – the image of the weapons that she often employed in combat.
    O.O this is the first time I have ever seen you make a fragment mistake. But, since this is the first time, we can let you pass...this time...

    He missed Creon’s face by inches, and the long-haired man responded by using his free hand to grab Kenjiro around the throat, forcing him backward.
    Compound words have always a bit of trouble for you, as well as everyone else since there is no dam rhyme or reason to em! long-haired is actually longhaired, but honestly I think long-haired looks bettre =.= The english language is so confusing.

    And yet, the one person she did trust had turned out to be a mask, hiding his true identity from her.
    Never made this mistake before either. Then again, you've never really used it. Anyway minor stuff. And Yet is redundant. Simply use yet

    Reivyn asked, thinking directly back to the long-haired man that had gone inside with Kenjiro.
    Read comment number 2

    On the walls, rather high bookshelves lined the walls on the rooms far corners.
    A rather simple mistake. I assume you meant rooms as in possesion, so, it would be room's.

    At that point, there was an hour’s break for the remaining four competitors – Travis, Matthew, a deceptively-skilled brunette girl named Liza Flynn, and Brad, whom Travis would be facing for the first spot in the finals.
    K again with the compound words. This actually does have a rule. deceptively (like most -ly words) is an adverb describing the adjective skilled. So there is no need for a hyphen.

    “Grass-types with good parameters...but their move pool is limited, to say the least.”

    I am pretty sure I corrected this before >.> are you actually making corrections >.> or am I wasting time =.=, anyway but this is a subject verb agreement, grass types is plural therefpre you would use are and not is.

    His eyes were a darker blue than the other man’s.
    Stupid english rules, so many damn ones to remember. anyway this sentecnce compares someones eyes to someone elses eyes. so you need to include that other wise it could be misintepreted as eyes were darker than the man and not the man's eyes

    “They pass down the orders, I just follow ‘em.
    they are two comlete sentences so you have two options. use a ; or use a . your choice.

    Done! ^^ I am not going back to correct the other chapters >.> that would be a pain. I'll just correct your newer chapters ^^

    ~

  6. #156
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    Default Chapter 16

    Sweet sixteen...boy, it’s safe to say we’re on the fast track here. I started writing in March.

    By the way, you might want to have some napkins handy. Some of you guys whose jaws might have hit the ground as a result of some of the recent plot twists...well, you’re starting to drool all over your keyboards and I guess you can figure out that drool and electronic equipment don’t really mix.

    Anyway, on to chapter sixteen. This is probably my longest chapter to date, but IMHO, it's also one of my best. There are two different storylines to follow, and both have something interesting going on. This chapter maybe best encapsulizes the style that I've been using to write everything I've written in the Revolution series so far: Pokemon Battles, Mano-y-mano can-opening, plot development, a little bit of romance...

    Without further ado, here we go!!

    Chapter 16: A Collage of Confrontations

    June 9, PA 2013 - Hermitage Cavern


    Reivyn’s eyes darted from blond-haired Vausin to Kenjiro Kazaki and back again.

    “He never told you?” Vausin asked, turning toward Reivyn. Seeing her facial expression, he muttered, “I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”

    “Does it matter?” Kenjiro shot back, nonchalantly rubbing his face where Vausin had just slapped him.

    “You’re another waste of talent,” Vausin said harshly. “You were a prodigy, destined for greatness. At the rate you were going, you might have even had a shot at being the next Archbishop...and you threw it all away. But, I suppose you were born into the wrong family...the brother of a radical heretic...”

    “Shut your mouth!!” Kenjiro roared.

    “Touched a nerve?” Vausin spoke silkily.

    “Can you guys take your personal beef somewhere else?” a voice from behind Kenjiro groaned. Captain Moriard was standing there with his unit, looking quite impatient. “We’ve got a geezer to find.”

    “Oh, really?” Moriard looked slightly to his right. From out of nowhere, a man with long, black hair had appeared, armed with a staff and looking a bit like he was prepared to fight. “Suppose I stop you. What happens then?”

    “Simple – we trample you into the ground, step over your corpse, then take the old man,” Moriard answered.

    “Over my dead body,” Creon growled.

    “I have no problem with that,” Moriard answered. Meanwhile, Vausin was approaching Reivyn again.

    “Come away from the fools and infidels,” he directed her. “Return your body and heart to the Divine Dragon.”

    “So your monks can have their way with me? No,” Reivyn said suddenly, snatching her hand away from Vausin, who looked shocked for a moment, and then growled.

    “You’ll meet an ugly end hanging around with riffraff like this,” Vausin grunted, angling his head at Kenjiro. “That his lies have been passed on even to the least of us...how proud Hayate Kazaki must be...”


    “ENOUGH!!” Kenjiro roared, drawing both of his knives and charging Vausin, who stood there with a sick smile on his face. He tilted his neck sideways and avoided one of the knives. Vausin grabbed Kenjiro’s attacking arm, unceremoniously flipping the rogue Temple Knight over his shoulder. Kenjiro sailed through the air, performed a sort of flip, and landed on the ground behind Vausin, facing his back shoulder and skidding to a stop. Unfortunately for him, he had landed right in the middle of four armed monks – and more unfortunately for him, he was so concentrated on Vausin that he didn’t realize this. One of the hooded monks snuck up behind him, knives drawn...

    “KENJI!!” Reivyn yelled at the top of her lungs. Kenjiro turned around and ducked under the monk’s attack. The acolyte let out a death gurgle as he dropped his kunai and slumped to the ground.

    “Looks like dear Kenjiro wants to do things the hard way,” Vausin sighed, drawing a serrated sword from a sheath on his back that, for some reason, Reivyn had failed to notice before. “His funeral – or should I say, yours?!

    He took seven fast steps toward Reivyn and came down with the sword. To his surprise, he was much too slow as Reivyn managed to jump out of the way a step and a half before he got there. He looked over his shoulder slowly to see Reivyn standing behind him.

    “You can’t run forever,” Vausin chuckled. “Sooner or later, you’ll have to fight...and you will lose. All this effort for a few moments of freedom...it hardly seems worth it.”

    “I pity you,” Reivyn said. “You will never know what it means to be cared for by somebody.”

    “Love,” Vausin scoffed. “The only thing it serves to do is to make it easier and more painful to lose someone.”

    “That’s a risk I’m willing to take,” Reivyn said.

    “Too bad for you...” Vausin growled, charging. “I’M NOT!!”


    “Come on, let’s go, let’s go!” Moriard yelled to the unit behind him. Ten knights and Galvant were running quickly toward the far end of the cave and the path that led back to Hong Liu’s hermitage. After about ten steps of running, Moriard stopped (Galvant ran into him, nearly knocking him over) and looked at the passageway as if he’d seen Death itself.

    Creon was standing there, his staff in his hand, and he was all business.

    “That’s as far as you go,” he said.

    “Come on, don’t be stupid,” Moriard laughed. “There’s one of you and twelve of us –“

    A silver jet of light shot forth from the end of Creon’s staff and struck the knight immediately to Moriard’s right, blasting him clear to the other side of the cavern, where he hit a rock wall about ten feet off the ground, plummeting face-first into solid stone soon after.

    “Eleven,” Creon said coldly, lowering his rod. Moriard looked like he’d just been clubbed over the head. “Anyone else want to try and walk past me?”

    Moriard gathered himself and frowned. He pointed his sword at Creon.

    “Since you want to give me an excuse to use force, that’s just what I’ll do,” Moriard said.


    Kenjiro and the three remaining monks stared at each other for a half-second, then the fight was on.


    “EEEEAAAARRRGH!!” Kenjiro roared as he charged, both kunai in hand. The monks (two of them carrying twin kunai, the third a staff. With a sweep of his arms, he threw both kunai in a roundhouse fashion. As they curved outward and began their trek in toward the acolytes on either side, Kenjiro continued to run at them, his hands now working a series of signs. He locked in on the last of these signs and shouted at the top of his lungs, “LIGHTNING DRAGON SPIRAL!”

    The two kunai glowed a bright bluish-white and gathered tails of crackling energy. The elongated heads of dragons were visible where the blades of the kunai should have been. They arced around the staff-wielding acolyte in the middle, going right at the two others flanking him. Sensing danger, they leapt into the air as the lightning dragons circled around the back of the third acolyte, who ducked, letting out a scream of terror. The magical beasts ruffled the acolyte’s robe as they came past him, uttering roars that sounded like claps of thunder as they ascended into the air, where Kenjiro had jumped. Kenjiro, as of now unarmed, met the two acolytes in midair – four weapons to his zero.

    The dagger-wielding monks heard crackling behind them and their eyes widened. They each let out screams of agony as they were caught inside the mouths of the two lightning dragons and utterly consumed. With a wild look in his eyes, Kenjiro welcomed the crackling forms into his hands. His fingers gripped the handles of two kunai as the dragons collapsed upon each other, creating a beach ball-sized globe of lightning. The staff-wielding acolyte looked up and gasped loudly as he saw Kenjiro hovering several feet in the air.

    “YOUR KIND WILL NEVER RULE ME AGAIN!!” he roared, hurling the two kunai at the monk. “DIE!!!”

    The energy focused in his kunai created a huge thunderbolt that descended straight at the acolyte, obliterating him in short order. Kenjiro landed on the ground as the smoke began to clear, catching his two kunai effortlessly in one hand and turning around toward his next target...

    Vausin.

    Speaking of which, Vausin was trying – and failing -- to cut Reivyn in half. As always, she was just a beat too quick.

    “Stop dancing around, damn you!!” Vausin bellowed as he continued to try to slash her. Eventually, he backed her into a corner. She realized that she had nowhere to go and screamed as the Temple Knight charged...

    Her heart skipped a beat as a tall form appeared out of thin air right in front of her, grabbing Vausin’s sword arm. The blond-haired man grunted, his teeth bared in a fierce snarl.

    “I’ve been waiting five years for this,” Kenjiro whispered in a voice replete with hatred and vengeance. “You’ll be the first, Vausin…”

    There was a flash of silver, and Vausin’s eyes rolled. Kenjiro had used his free hand to deal Vausin
    a double blow with both kunai at once. Blood began to pour out of Vausin’s stomach, spilling onto and
    over Kenjiro’s hand.

    “Tell me,” Vausin croaked, his breathing ragged and short, “Is this quest for revenge worth bloodshed? It will never bring him back…and all you’re doing is damning yourself to hell.”

    “That’s what you don’t understand about me,” Kenjiro answered. Even Reivyn, who had seen nearly as much death and bloodshed as Kenjiro himself, found herself feeling slightly faint at Kenjiro’s sudden brutality as, with a flip of the arm, he appeared to twist both knives and drive them in further. “Avengers are bound for hell from the very jump. But if I take as many of you with me as possible, it’s worth it.”

    He took a step in closer, driving the knives in all the way to their hilts. His hands were shining and the color of Reivyn’s hair.

    “Looks like this is where we part ways,” Kenjiro said. A sick smile crossing his face, he added, “I’ll see you there.”

    Vausin let out a strangled scream and began to shake limply as his body was covered in lightning.

    “ARGH!” Vausin yelled. “What is…”

    “Just a little something I invented myself after I left the Temple,” Kenjiro said, as Vausin continued to convulse and writhe in the pain that came from this stun gun from hell. Raising a foot up to the Temple Knight’s chest, he yanked the knives out, kicking Vausin off his feet and causing him to land on his back, smoking and still shaking with an expression of utmost terror on his face. After five seconds, the entire portrait of carnage froze, never to move again. Kenjiro was left alone, breathing hard.

    “After a while, you start to learn,” he panted without looking at Reivyn. “When they come after you, someone’s life has got to end, because they won’t stop until one of you is dead. So if you don’t want it to be you, you have to be prepared to kill.”

    Reivyn’s silver eyes widened with horror as she looked at Kenjiro’s armed hand, which was covered in blood halfway up the forearm.

    “That’s one,” he whispered viciously. “Seven left to go…”

    Reivyn didn’t know what to think. She was so confused. On the one hand, he was this cruel, violent, and bloodthirsty avenger…but there was this other side of him – a side that wasn’t quite so cold and uncaring, a side that came out whenever no one mentioned the Temple.

    “Why didn’t you tell me?” Reivyn asked. “Why didn’t you tell me that you used to be a Temple Knight?”

    “That was five years ago, Reivyn,” Kenjiro answered.

    “Five years? But that would have made you…” Reivyn said, using the bit of knowledge she had to do the math in her head.

    “Thirteen years old,” Kenjiro finished. “Everyone seemed to think I was pretty good at…whatever the hell it was we were doing.”

    He gave a bitter laugh.

    “No way I’m going out like this,” he grunted. “If I can’t have a peaceful life, at least let me die somewhere quiet…with a little bit of light.”

    Reivyn pondered these words carefully. They seemed oddly out of character for Kenjiro.

    “Have you given up on living?” she asked. “Is there anything you want other than a peaceful death?”

    Kenjiro turned and looked straight at Reivyn for several seconds.

    “Nothing,” he said, walking off and leaving Reivyn with the familiar feeling that he just might not have been entirely truthful with her. Her patience was at an end, her heart bursting with the question that she had been longing – and yet so afraid – to ask for weeks. Before she could stop herself, it exploded forth from her as a dam cracking and gushing an unstoppable current.

    “Kenji!” Kenjiro felt an arm on his shoulder and realized that the arm was Reivyn’s. He also realized, with a slight twinge of pain, that she had a very firm grip on said arm. “Why are you doing this?”

    Her voice was firm and strong and there almost seemed a kind of madness audible within it.

    “Doing what?” Kenjiro asked.

    “If you hate the Temple so much, why do you spend so much time trying to help me? Is it all part of this scheme you have for revenge? Am I just a tool to you, or am I something…” Reivyn began to yell, all the questions she had about the one standing before her bursting forth almost uncontrollably. “Am I something else?”

    “I’ve never met anyone who asks more and stranger questions than you, Reivyn,” Kenjiro sighed. Apparently this was his attempt to calm her down; it didn’t work one bit.

    “That’s the only way I know to learn something that I don’t know!!” Reivyn shouted in her frustration. “The way you talk to me is different from everybody else. I feel safe around you, even though you’re one of the most brutal and hateful people I’ve ever met!”

    “What is it, then?!” Kenjiro yelled, finally having lost his patience. “What the hell do you want to know from me?!”

    “I want to know if the reason you’re doing this…” Reivyn said, tearing her eyes away from Kenjiro for a second and looking for the ground. She took a gulp of the dank, wet underground air, looked up at Kenjiro again, and, almost as if she was sure that she would lose her nerve should she hesitate a second longer, screamed the question. “I WANT TO KNOW IF IT’S LOVE!”

    “. . .” Kenjiro was completely taken aback. Any question…

    Anything about the Temple…

    Anything about Kenjiro himself…

    …would have been easier to answer – but she had to ask this one.

    “Is that why?” Reivyn’s voice softened when Kenjiro did not answer right away. “Is that why you only treat me like I matter as much as your revenge? Do you love me?”

    Kenjiro remained silent. The truth was, she had asked him a question to which he did not know the answer…

    …or perhaps a question whose answer he chose not to know.

    “Answer me,” she said with the desperation of an abject plea, and yet the authority of an order. As she often still did, she let out a gasp and tensed as she felt two hands gently caressing her shoulders…

    With a jolting movement, she felt her neck whip sideways and she was swung and then violently thrown to the ground. She hit the stone floor, looked up and let out a scream.

    Kenjiro looked down at his chest, which was pierced all the way through with a long sword. Creon, who had just dispatched the last of the grunt Knights on the other side of the cavern, jabbed his rod into Galvant’s stomach, spewing forth a jet of flame that engulfed the sub-captain, who let out a scream of agony as he died a fiery death. He turned around, looking for Moriard, and found, with a groaned oath and a gasp of horror, the last of the Imperial unit with his sword cleanly piercing the heart of Kenjiro Kazaki.

    “Shouldn’t have gotten in my way,” Moriard grunted, yanking the sword out and kicking Kenjiro in the ribs.

    She watched him fall back in slow motion…

    At the last second, she caught his head mere inches from the ground and supported him. His eyes were wild. He seemed to be struggling to speak and, even though Reivyn was looking right into his eyes, he did not see her.

    “R-Reiyvn…” he muttered, his eyes darting around inside their sockets. Finally, as he gave a sigh, they centered, unseeing, upon hers and became perfectly still. She felt his body become heavy and lowered it down into the ground, sobbing uncontrollably as Creon began to approach. Her knees buckled under her with the weight of loss – a weight somehow made physical, tangible…

    …and the cavern echoed with a scream – a soul-rending shriek that reverberated with all of her grief, all of her pain, and all of her sorrow.


    Dewford Beach

    The afternoon sun shone golden and hot upon the sands of Dewford. A multitude of youths, from all ages and all walks of life, gathered upon these sands, oblivious to the tragedy that was taking place mere miles away. Their concentration was on the match…the final match. Sixteen had entered this competition; two remained…

    …and, out of these two, only one could emerge victorious.

    A crowd can feel the tension of a true and personal rivalry, even if they don’t know the Trainers…they can still feel it. They can sense when this is more than a match – they can sense when this is a fight, a one-on-one battle of wills.

    He felt the winged charm, cold between his shirt and his bare, tanned chest. The scattered applause and cheering to which he took this stage of sand was all but silence to him. His emerald-colored eyes sought only the foil of him…

    His friend…

    And yet his greatest rival.

    The spur behind him…

    And the obstacle in front of him.

    The one he wished to be…

    …and the one he wished to surpass.


    He stared across the sand at this reflection of a past self. After so long, he understood why things were the way they were. He saw so much of himself in him. Trying to overcome the pain of his past and forge a future for himself and someone that he loved...he knew the concept much too well. The hard fringe of his cobalt hair tickled his forehead as the sea breeze kicked it into life. A look of determination was painted onto his face – no longer gentle and innocent as the boy he was two years ago. A boy, yes, but a boy that had seen the troubles and the scars of many hard years – that was who he was now.

    His mind wandered back to the year he had spent trying to piece together his life after the war. In a lot of ways, the story of the boy across from him was the same as his own. They both knew all about overcoming pain – both past and present.

    He couldn’t have asked for a better rival.


    “Are you ready for this?” he heard the brown-haired boy shout.

    “Just say the word,” Travis replied, selecting his first Pokemon at random at pulling the ball off his belt.

    “Are both trainers ready?!” the referee shouted, shooting a look at each of the two boys.

    “Let’s go,” Matt said calmly, a quiet determination in his voice.

    Travis responded with a silent nod, his eyes locked upon Matthew’s.

    “BEGIN!” the referee yelled, raising both flags in the customary fashion. Instantly, there seemed to be a stir among the crowd – relative quiet was replaced by a murmur of excitement…people in less-than-convenient positions stood or craned their necks to get a better look.

    “First off…” Matthew shouted, throwing his first Pokéball. “Mightyena!!”

    Travis had heard of this creature before, but he had never seen one. He wasn’t going to lie to himself – it looked pretty fearsome. At three feet tall and with a coat of gray and a coal-like black, along with its sharp teeth, prominent ears, and piercing, red eyes, it looked like some kind of attack dog sent to (forcefully) escort his soul to the underworld. It let out a deep growl that reverberated in the pit of Travis’ stomach afterward.

    Then again, maybe that was the fact that the last bite he’d had to eat had been well over eight hours ago. He and Katrina were just about to eat lunch when Matthew approached them with news of the tournament. On top of that, they’d had a seven-o’clock breakfast that morning with no snack in between. Travis then remembered with a twinge of annoyance that this tournament had prevented him from finishing his date with Katrina in the first place. He’d have to make it up to her somehow.

    Travis mentally smacked himself – focus!

    “Meru, let’s go!” Travis yelled, throwing the Pokéball containing his Kitide into the air. As the ball sprang from the ground back into his palm, a white glow dimmed to reveal a smaller, aquamarine Pokémon that was similar in appearance to a fox cub. She looked up at her bigger counterpart. As the Bite Pokémon growled again, Meru allowed a grimace of sorts to cross her face. It was almost as if she thought that she could win this battle, but knew from the onset that it wouldn’t be so easy.

    “Mightyena, Shadow Ball!” Matthew shouted. The canine creature opened his mouth, revealing his razor-like fangs, and a large, black globe of energy about a size bigger than a regulation softball appeared, crackling and sparking with its dark power as it gathered strength.

    “<Uh-oh,>” Angel had been hit with a Shadow Ball or two in her lifetime and knew how much they hurt. Then again, that could have been partly because of the fact that she was a Psychic-type, but still…

    “Dodge that and use Water Gun!” Travis ordered. Meru moved to her left quickly, easily avoiding the fast-moving ball of ghastly energy. As the Shadow Ball exploded into a cloud of dust behind her, Meru took aim and fired with her Water Gun. The high-pressure jet caught the Dark-type full-on in the face, causing him to bark angrily as he skidded backward.

    “<Take that!>” Meru shouted enthusiastically.

    “Go after him!” Travis yelled immediately, gesturing at the Mightyena. “Use Bite!”

    “Bite, Mightyena!” Matt responded.

    The two Pokémon approached each other, the Bite Pokémon living up to his name as he was the one to connect, grabbing Meru with his fangs and tossing her to the ground as they collided in midair. Travis swore as Meru hit the ground, resiliently rolling to her feet soon afterward.

    “Shadow Ball!” Matt shouted.

    “Water Gun!” Travis responded loudly.

    A black ball of energy and a high-pressure jet of water met each other in the center of the arena, exploding in a shower of black and white as the spectators surround the arena let out a collective gasp of astonishment and erupted into cheers.

    “Good show,” Matt laughed.

    “You’re holding back a little bit,” Travis replied with a smirk. “Why don’t you make this interesting?”

    “Stick my neck out and get decapitated? No, thanks,” Matt replied wittily.

    “Suit yourself, but I’m going all out!” Travis shouted. “Meru, use Water Gun!”

    “Double Team!” Matt yelled. Mightyena howled and appeared to split into five copies of himself. The Water Gun hit the Mightyena on the near right, and it dissipated, leaving four copies.

    “Not bad,” Travis chuckled with a smile.

    “I’m just getting warmed up,” Matt answered. “Use Double Team again!!”

    The four Mightyena became eight and surrounded Meru, who looked around herself to find an octet of growling dog figures poised to attack. Travis knew, of course, that only one of the eight was real – and he already knew a good way of finding out. The question was…would Matt be smart enough to see it coming?

    “Shadow Ball!” Matt yelled. “Take her down!”

    Travis waited for a half-second as eight Mightyena began to produce eight Shadow Balls, aiming at Meru from eight different directions. Of course, Travis knew that there was only one real Mightyena. The trick about the physics of Double Team was that this one Mightyena could at any given moment be any one of these eight clones. The real one was moving in short bursts. Of course, this amount of speed would probably do something interesting when combined with…

    “Supersonic!” Travis yelled. “NOW!!”

    Meru opened her mouth wide and produced a high-pitched scream. There was a loud ringing sound, almost as if the supersonic waves were being filtered through a long tube – like a bullet through a gun with a thirty-foot barrel. Almost instantly, Matt’s knees buckled a bit. Mightyena let out a loud howl and fell to the ground in front of Meru as the former’s seven clones disappeared.

    “Bite!” Travis ordered. Meru jumped straight at Mightyena, her sharp, short fangs closing on the Bite Pokémon’s neck as she tackled Mightyena to the ground. Mightyena, snarling loudly, aimed his head up at the Kitide…

    This time Shadow Ball hit its mark – point-blank, in fact. Meru screamed loudly as she was blasted up into the air. She went into a somersault and landed hard on her face in the sand, skidding backward.

    “Damn!” Travis cursed.

    “Did you really think I’d go down that easily?!” Matt shouted. “Tackle, Mightyena!!”

    Mightyena charged – a shadow the color of blackest night.

    “Tackle, Meru!” Travis responded quickly.

    Meru charged – a blur the color of virgin, tropical water.

    They collided at the center, inches above the ground, kicking up a ring of dust and bouncing off each other. Mightyena, growling fiercely, skidded to a halt, while Meru, groaning a bit, dug her own sharp claws into the grit below her to slow her own backward momentum. Another cheer of excitement rose from the crowd, but Travis could see that the battle was starting to take its toll on Meru, who had all the heart a Trainer could ask for, but was nonetheless substantially smaller than the three-foot-three, eighty-one-pound Mightyena (this according to Travis’ Pokédex).

    Travis would have to change his strategy.

    “Water Gun!” he cried out immediately.

    “Shadow Ball!” Matthew responded.

    The two attacks hit each other and canceled out. Through the hollow center of the resulting ring of intermingled darkness and water, the green eyes met the blue, each pair with a steely glint.

    Meru and Mightyena began to mirror each other’s moves, their footprints creating a circle inside this square of sand. One was shooting Water Guns, the other, Shadow Balls. Explosions of water and shadow and sand flared all over the arena as the crowd sat on tenterhooks, watching and waiting to see what would happen next. By the time the volley was over (Travis had to dodge a couple of rogue Shadow Balls and Water Guns, as did Matthew), each Pokémon was facing its trainer.

    “Tackle!” both Trainers shouted simultaneously.

    Meru and Mightyena charged, bouncing off each other in the center of the arena and switching sides, both skidding to a stop in front of their respective Trainers and turning around, breathing loudly. Now that he got a good look at Meru, he was a tiny bit worried. Her aquamarine fur was disheveled and she was covered with indigo-colored bruises. She staggered a bit.

    “<I can’t lose…>” Meru groaned.

    “Meru…hang in there…” Travis muttered.

    “C’mon, Mightyena – just one more push…” Matt muttered.

    Meru and Mightyena locked eyes for a moment, and dropped to the ground, one right after the other.

    “Oh, my –“ Mariah gasped, her hand to her mouth. Katrina grimaced.

    “…FIVE! Double knockout!! Both Pokémon are unable to continue! This match is a draw!!” the referee shouted, crossing his flags in his hands.

    Both Trainers returned their respective Pokémon, gazing at each other with slight intrigue.

    “Geez…” Travis panted, a bit impressed and a bit worried.

    “Damn it,” Matthew said drily, a slight smile on his face.


    She held his body in his arms, shaking him, refusing to believe it. He had been so steadfast, so tough…a part of her dared to think that he was nigh invincible.

    “Kenjiro…Kenji…please wake up…”

    “You *******,” Creon said, standing between Kenjiro’s dead body and the one who had made it so – Captain Moriard of the Imperial Knights, who took one look at Creon’s eyes. “I’ll make you pay for that!!”

    “Will you?” Moriard mocked him, raising his sword, which was covered down to the hilt with the blood of Kenjiro Kazaki – a sight that took Reivyn’s grief, shattered it, and handed it back to her as rage…rage that she had never before felt in her entire life.

    “No,” Creon heard a growl behind him and stopped dead in his tracks. He whirled around to find Reivyn on her feet. Her weapons were drawn, her fists were clenched and shaking uncontrollably, and there could not be found an emotion but total fury on her dirty, tear-streaked face. “Don’t touch him.”

    “Heheh…this is amusing,” Moriard laughed. “You, of all people? Maybe, if you’d stayed out of our way like we asked you, the both of you would be alive.”

    “Shut up,” she growled harshly, shaking even more powerfully now. “I’m going to kill you.”

    “Right,” Moriard scoffed. “Little miss crybaby, kill me? Try it.”

    With a snarl that sounded like it had been belched from the bowels of hell itself, she charged. Moriard was taken aback at her speed and leapt backward, narrowly avoiding losing his head to one of Reivyn’s knives and then the other. Forcefully, Moriard raised the hilt of his sword and struck Reivyn in the back of the head. She hit the ground face-first and rolled several times, springing off the ground and ending up on her feet after several midair barrel rolls.

    “What the –” Moriard gasped, crying out as Reivyn’s knife slashed his face moments later. A trail of blood flew from Moriard’s cheek, splashing onto Reivyn’s grimy and tear-stained face. Moriard raised his blade, growled, and attempted to slash Reivyn, who grabbed Moriard’s arm and threw him to the ground. She jumped away to put some distance between herself and her opponent. She looked up and saw Moriard charging with his long sword. A flash of silver through the air…

    A scream of pain…

    Reivyn went flying. Sticking one hand down, she vaulted on the ground, flipping herself back to her feet. Moriard came at her again. She grabbed his arm and, with a quick pull, guided him rather forcefully into a rock face behind her. Moriard choked in pain as his back slammed against the stone wall. Reivyn reared back and laid a kunai into Moriard’s torso. The red-haired captain groaned as Reivyn bodily tossed him sideways with a terrible groan of rage. She took two steps, a back flip, and rose high into the air, directly above Moriard’s heart, rotating very quickly with her kunai in front of her.

    With a loud yell, she released the two knives, which continued to spiral downward, tails of flame streaking behind them like small comets. Moriard jumped backward just as the knives hit the ground…

    BANG.

    There was a blast like a bomb going off, and the ground around the knives erupted into violent flames. The force of the blast was more than sufficient to put Captain Moriard onto his back, as he skidded on that area of his body, his body armor the only thing saving his flesh from being ripped to shreds on the rough ground. When he finally regained some control of his person, he used it to roll to his feet. In doing so, his eyes focused again on the place where the explosion had happened – a place that was now shrouded in a cloud of thick dust and smoke.

    “Damn you!” Moriard yelled. He saw the dust shift a bit….

    And Reivyn emerged, armed with her knives and charging toward him. Raising his long sword, he ran to meet her. ‘

    He was the first to move, attempting to decapitate Reivyn with a single stroke. Reivyn blocked it and landed a vicious right hook on Moriard’s body with the knife in her hand. Now, Reivyn, her beautiful, silver eyes glinting madly behind her dirty and matted hair, went on the offensive. Moriard looked slightly over his head and realized just in time that the dagger that Reivyn was swinging at him was crackling with lightning. He dodged and looked at the one in her left hand, which was wreathed in flame. She hit Moriard twice more, badly denting the armor he was wearing. She then leapt up and brought a hard knee into Moriard’s nose, breaking it instantly and causing it to spurt blood. Using that same leg to step on the reeling captain’s shoulder, she brought the other foot across Moriard’s temple, clouting him sideways and to the ground. He hit the dirt flat on his back. Reivyn didn’t hesitate. She took two or three steps, leapt, and drove her knees directly into Moriard’s body. Lots of things broke at this point...armor, along with several ribs…

    Moriard coughed a huge fleck of blood into Reivyn’s face, which was already cut and dirty with everything imaginable. She pointed the blades of her knives at two opposite points on Moriard’s neck and stabbed.

    Moriard wasn’t dead instantly. Instead, she continued to push through skin and muscle. As he shook and gurgled, Moriard’s face became redder and redder, eventually taking on the appearance of a large beet, until –

    The pressure became too much. Moriard’s eyes rolled, having been the victim of an aneurysm. Moreover, blood began to pour from every remaining orifice on his head. His body went limp and his head rolled to the side. Just for good measure, Reivyn grabbed him by his hair and slammed his head against the ground five solid times.

    She stood in the silence of the dank cavern. Corpses were everywhere around her as she hit her knees and looked around. Her eyes blurred again with tears and fatigue. There was one corpse that she did not see.

    The only one that mattered to her in this bloody place…



    She opened her eyes. She was in a small bed, barely big enough for her. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she found that the room in which she lay contained shelves full of books. She sat up on the bed and heard the door open. An auburn-haired, relatively young woman (although she was older than Reivyn) walked in at that moment and gave a slight gasp.

    “Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re awake!”

    Reivyn remembered that face – Agnes…who was married to Creon, who was fighting alongside herself and Kenjiro when…

    At that moment, the weight of what had happened hit her. She buried her head in her knees (it registered for a brief, fleeting second that sometime between when she had fallen in the cavern and when she had awoken in here, both she and her clothes had been separated, cleaned, and reunited) and began to cry.

    “Oh-oh…what’s wrong?” Agnes asked, attempting to put a comforting arm around Reivyn. “Why are you so sad? We’re all alive, aren’t we?”

    Agnes couldn’t have asked a worse question. Reivyn reacted by shrieking “NO!” and sobbing even harder.

    “What do you mean?” Agnes asked. “Master Hong, Creon and I, you, and Kenjiro…at least I think that was his name…”

    “He’s…d-dead!!” Reivyn sobbed. “I s-saw it…”

    “He’s quite alive, actually,” Agnes said calmly. “I just went in to check on him and he asked me if you were okay.” With a good-natured whisper, she added into Reivyn’s ear, “I think he likes you.”

    “B-but…I saw him…” Reivyn stammered, shaking her head.

    “Well, he was pretty much a moment or two away from being a corpse when Creon brought him back. It must have been while you were fighting that Imperial Knight,” Agnes explained. “But Master Hong fixed him up in a flash, and now he’s good as new! Well – almost…”

    “Where is he?” Reivyn asked, standing and then staggering. Agnes came over to support her.

    “Whoa, easy,” Agnes replied, steadying the girl. “That fight you were in was pretty brutal.”

    Nevertheless, she stood and walked toward and opened the door. She walked nervously across the lobby of the hermitage. Creon and Hong Liu seemed to be poring over the map on the sage’s wall. Registering her presence, both stopped to look at her. She returned their stares for a moment as she turned and walked past them and the map, almost as if an unseen voice had called her in that direction.

    “Kenji…” she whispered as she exited the door. Hanging over this underground lake was this balcony that seemed to be supported by two huge posts that went down, down, down into the water. She looked around in the distance and saw two holes in the distant rock walls, from which water spilled in beautiful, gushing falls. Her eyes came down to the end of the balcony, where a youth was leaning over it, lost in thought. He heard that he was called, and turned around slowly. There seemed to be something different about his facial expression, but her eyes were so blurry with tears, she failed to see what that difference was. She ran straight into him, wailing loudly into his chest. Not touching her for a moment, he just stood there, a bit surprised that anyone would cry over him like this. He just stood there. And…

    Finally…

    He received her.

    Feeling his arms on her back, her screaming quieted to silent sobs. She looked up and placed her hand, almost instinctively, on the left side of Kenjiro’s chest, where the scar from the sword…

    And, no doubt, the scar from a brand of another kind…

    The burn of a life past…rested.

    Kenjiro looked down at her silently, not protesting, not saying a word. She let out a sob and finally spoke:

    “You never answered me…”

    She looked at the ground. Soon after, she felt a gentle finger under her chin and looked up.

    Almost as businesslike as he always was, he walked past her toward the back door of the cottage, stopping only to turn around and say this:

    “We’re probably leaving soon. We can’t stay here anymore.”

    She sighed and put her hand to her chin for a moment.

    She finally had her answer – a curt answer, unspoken…but an answer nonetheless.



    From inside, Kenjiro stole a glance over his shoulder outside and then quickly turned toward Creon and Hong Liu, both of whom stopped looking at the map on the wall and turned to him.

    Creon sighed. Her timing perfect, Agnes entered the room right before Creon began to speak.

    “Master Hong has come to a decision,” he said curtly, his body language betraying the fact that whatever decision Hong Liu had come to, Creon must not have agreed with it.

    “I do not wish to run away,” Hong Liu said simply. “I wish to do something…more.”

    “More?” Kenjiro repeated, looking askance at the old sage.

    “He means…” Creon sighed, trailing off as if he could not bear to finish the sentence. “He means that he wants to help Prince Elrik fight.”

    This was more than Kenjiro could have hoped for – imagine Roald’s face when the old wizard and his two protégés turned up at his front door! Nevertheless, Kenjiro had to keep his cool and not look like he needed or wanted these three people that much.

    “Are you sure about that?” he asked. “I hope you understand that if this thing gets ugly, we’re talking about a civil war at best.”

    Suddenly, it was as if Creon’s patience could take no more. “I tried to tell him that,” he piped in with the air of a younger sibling ratting out his older counterpart, “but he wouldn’t lis…”

    “I understand you very well, Creon,” Hong Liu said sternly. “We can only hide from the world so long. It’s time for me to handle Gorba the way I should have years ago. Perhaps, part of the fault for this situation lies with me. If I had put up a better fight when Gorba took my position from me…”

    He trailed off and looked up at Kenjiro.

    “Tell us where the Prince is,” Hong Liu said.

    “Rustboro City,” Kenjiro replied, sounding confused. “But, how…”

    “There are means,” Hong Liu said, raising one of his crooked, bony fingers and hiding a smile under his long mustache and beard. “Where there is a desire to do something, the means can always be found.”

    “Sounds an awful lot like ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’,” Kenjiro commented. Hong Liu chuckled, his white facial hair quivering a bit.

    “If you say so…”
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 10th September 2007 at 5:19 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  7. #157
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    May 2005
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    ~~~ *** ~~~

    The first battle had ended in a draw, neither Pokémon being able to withstand the other’s attacks. Therefore, each Trainer had been forced to choose a second Pokémon, and the selections had been made.

    Travis chose Champ, a Treecko who had been his first acquisition (due to the nature of their meeting, it could not truly be called a ‘capture’) after he had arrived in Hoenn over two weeks ago. Champ was proficient with the Iron Tail maneuver. Of course, Matthew, having watched all of Travis’ battles, knew that already…

    He had countered with his Dustox, a variant evolution of Wurmple that evolves from the violet-tinged Cascoon as opposed to the pure white Silcoon. Dustox was a bug-like creature with a large, purple abdomen, huge, green wings, and huge, yellow compound eyes befitting an insect. A haze seemed to waft forth from his wings whenever he flapped them.

    Already, Travis had to admit to himself that he was slightly worried. If it had been anyone else commanding this Dustox, he wouldn’t be as concerned, even with his Grass-type Treecko at a slight disadvantage because of the Bug-type and Poison-type properties of his opponent. But Matthew had a way of beating rare Pokémon with ones that were relatively common. Along the first leg of his journey, Travis thought that he’d seen about a hundred or so Wurmple, so they weren’t exactly hard to find. But he couldn’t use Angel just yet – he wanted to wait until Matthew called on his Combusken, which had beaten Angel quite badly the first time that they had met in battle, nearly half a month ago in Oldale Town.

    “You gonna call an attack or not?!” Matthew shouted. Travis smirked. Matt was trying to bait him.

    “<Yeah, are we?>” Champ yelled. Travis shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly – if his Pokémon was ready to go, then he might as well go.

    “Champ, use Quick Attack!” Travis shouted, clenching his fist. Champ was off in a flash toward Dustox, who hovered about two or three feet off the sand using his wings.

    “Dustox, use Protect!” Matthew yelled. A dome of energy surrounded Dustox and gave off a slight hum. Champ rammed right into the barrier, breaking it but bouncing off. He flew backward and skidded to a stop in the sand.

    “<Okay…that didn’t work,>” Champ commented. Travis muttered an expletive under his breath.

    “Confusion!!” Matt ordered. The air around Dustox seemed to distort for a moment. About a second later, a sound of impact was heard as Champ went flying, thrown airborne by an invisible blast of Psychic energy. He righted himself in midair and managed to land on his feet. However, he looked a bit dizzy.

    “Champ, are you okay?!” Travis shouted.

    “I’m fine!” Champ groaned.

    “Again, Dustox!!” Matt yelled.

    “Quick Attack, NOW!” Travis responded. A large amount of dust kicked up in front of Travis as Champ disappeared. A moment later, Champ came hurtling through the air from Dustox’s right. Dustox, sensing the Treecko’s presence, rose into the air a couple of inches, leaving the green Wood Gecko Pokémon to hit absolutely nothing. Having overextended himself, Champ flipped in midair and screeched to a stop in the hot sand, his back now facing Dustox.

    “Too slow! Dustox, use Psybeam!” Matt shouted. The Poison Moth Pokémon readied a rainbow-colored beam of Psychic energy. Travis knew he had to be quick.

    Dustox fired –

    “Champ! Use Iron Tail on the ground!!” Travis shouted. Champ’s tail, glowing white, smashed into the ground forcefully, causing it to shake a bit as a column of falling sand measuring about five feet in height arose between himself and the Psybeam, which hit the sand and appeared unable to make it through the natural barrier.

    “Quick Attack!” Travis yelled. Dustox saw only a pillar of sand. All of a sudden, a green-and-white blur broke the column and streaked upwards into Dustox’s prominent, violet thorax, knocking him backward a bit. Champ disappeared and reappeared where he had started the battle, several feet in front of Travis.

    In the lull that followed, Matthew whistled.

    “I’m not gonna lie – that was pretty sick,” he commented. “Serious creativity points for that one.”

    “If it works…” Travis said, shrugging his shoulders slightly. Meanwhile, the cogs were working in Matt’s brain.

    Damn it! I can’t afford another draw like the last one! Combusken’s all I’ve got left and I’ll bet that Travis and Angel have their act together now, so they’ll have an advantage!

    Travis wasn’t crazy, either, but he was talking to himself nonetheless…

    Okay – I got away with one there. But I need to end this battle before Matt figures out how to use this sand against me.

    “Dustox, use Gust!” Matt yelled. Travis groaned another swearword – this was the one thing that he was hoping Matt wouldn’t do. He shielded his eyes as the wind grew strong and sand kicked up everywhere on the arena. Champ, with his oblong optics, had no chance – the grit got into his eyes faster than you could say ‘Sand-attack’. He shut them, squinting horribly as he felt himself being lifted into the air. After a couple of seconds of chaos, Champ was spewed out of the sandy typhoon and onto the ground, where he bounced despite the soft landing and groaned loudly.

    “<Okay – I really didn’t practice for that!>” he shouted as he staggered to his feet. Travis put his hand to his forehead, grabbing at his bangs a bit in a calmly-displayed frustration.

    “Guess that worked,” Matt commented, almost as if he was surprised at himself. “Dustox, another Gust!”

    “Oh, damn…” Travis muttered. “Champ, wait a second!”

    “<Huh? What?>” Champ uttered, his mouth slightly agape.

    “Trust me,” Travis said. “Jump on my signal and ready an Iron Tail.”

    “<Don’t know where this is going, but you’re calling the plays here…>” Champ sighed as his tail began to move back and forth and glow a bright white. He planted his feet in the sand and braced himself for the inevitable impact. The sand began to rise in a spiral around him.

    “Fire it off, NOW!” Matt yelled, clenching his fist. Dustox began to beat his wings faster and faster…

    “Jump!!” Travis shouted. Champ wasted no time getting off the ground. He began to feel himself being thrown around in the cyclone and began to spin. It was at that point that he realized the plan. Champ was high above Dustox, who looked upward with his bulging, compound eyes and saw a million Treecko focus into one.

    “Why’s he spinning like – OH, ****!! Dustox, get outta there!!” Matthew cried, realizing his error.

    “Iron Tail, Champ!” Travis yelled.

    With a sickening crunch, Champ’s prominent, glowing tail connected with the top of Dustox’s head – but the Treecko was just getting started. The momentum created by the spin caused Champ to come around again…

    …and hit a second time…

    …and a third time…

    …and a fourth time.

    On the fifth hit, Dustox fell to the ground, battered, bruised, and beaten. Champ landed on the sand on his tail and used it to spring back to a standing position as his opponent fell to the dirt yards away. Matt groaned.

    “One…two…three…four…five!!” the referee counted. “Dustox is unable to battle! Treecko is the winner!!”

    Matt returned Dustox to his ball. Maybe it was wishful thinking on Travis’ part, but Matt looked like a little bit of the wind had been taken out of his sails.

    “Minor setback,” the green-eyed teenage boy muttered, ruffling his already windswept, highlighted brown hair.

    “We know what’s coming next,” Travis muttered.

    “Go…Combusken!!” Matt yelled, throwing a Pokéball into the air. The sphere burst open to reveal the young fowl Pokémon – healthy, strong, and looking for a fight.

    “<Ngh…>” Champ grunted in disapproval at the appearance of a Fire-type onto the battlefield.

    “Don’t let him intimidate you!” Travis shouted. “Go after him! Use Quick Attack!!”

    “<Let’s go!!>” Champ yelled, charging in a blur of white, spinning, and grunting with effort as his tail made contact with Combusken’s right jaw. The Young Fowl Pokémon fell back a step or two as Champ landed. Champ’s eyes went to the size of dinner plates (which isn’t saying much, if we’re being honest) when he saw a stream of flame coming down at him. He jumped out of the way as the fire hit the sand and kicked it up in a cloud of thick, hot dust and smoke.

    “Keep it up, Combusken!! Use Peck!!” Travis heard Matthew shout through the cloud of smoke. Combusken emerged, running extremely fast with his arms at his sides and his beak poised to strike.

    Champ wasn’t ready…

    WHAM!

    The green-bodied creature fell to the ground as a passing orange blur struck him on the head. When Champ rose to his feet, a prominent purple bruise was on his face. Travis groaned his disapproval.

    “Take him down,” Matt said calmly, drawing his finger across his throat. “Meteor Ball!”

    Travis groaned. “Champ, dodge it!”

    Combusken lazily threw a spiraling ball of flame at the ground as Champ jumped backward. It was almost as if Combusken wasn’t trying to hit the Treecko. As Champ landed and heard footsteps, Travis realized, too late, that he had no time to defend himself.

    “DOUBLE KICK!!” Matt shouted. Combusken didn’t need telling twice – a well-placed knee was driven into Champ’s pink torso. The small Grass-type groaned and coughed as all the wind was taken out of him. Combusken brushed Champ up and into the air with his clawed foot. Then, with the leap of a Dodrio with springs in its legs, Combusken rose into the air and turned head over heels, bringing his own heel down right between the Treecko’s eyes and forcing him face-first into the sand from a height of about ten feet or so. Compared to other surfaces, like hard Pokémon League-standard arena floor, the sand was a relatively soft landing…but it didn’t matter. The barrage of blows had been more than enough to sap Champ of his remaining energy. The referee started and finished the obligatory five-count.

    “Treecko is unable to battle! Combusken wins!!” he announced, pointing the green flag at Matthew.

    “Nice job,” Travis muttered as he returned Champ to his ball. He was now down to his last Pokémon. He looked down at his ankle, at the Espeon who had been his faithful friend and fighter through two years of troubles. He knelt down next to the lavender Sun Pokémon and stroked the top of her head. She smiled. The two had always gotten on well, and had a relationship similar to that of twin siblings. Partly due to their deep connection and partly due to Angel’s psychic abilities, they often found themselves finishing each other’s sentences and things like that – a fact that had made Angel’s previous loss to Matt’s Combusken even more disturbing. “Are you feeling up for a rematch?”

    “<Definitely!>” Angel exclaimed, smiling again. Travis stood.

    “Let’s go, then.”


    Kenjiro looked up at the towering cliff in front of him. A hundred feet up or so was the hermitage of Hong Liu, which had been vacated by its tenants and emptied to the best of their abilities. On the strength of Creon, Kenjiro, and Reivyn (who proved, as she always did, that she was much more formidable than she appeared), nearly all of Hong Liu’s important books and documents – including the large world map that had been set up in the hermit’s study.

    Where had all of these possessions ended up?

    Well, it turned out that Hong Liu owned a small ship. It was this that was hidden in a deeper cavern several dozen feet below the location of the hermitage. What was more impressive was the fact that Creon could summon the ship to the shore if he wished.

    The ground gave a lurch under him. Kenjiro realized immediately that the ship was moving. Her crawl was slow and steady toward what appeared to be a tunnel. Where it led, Kenjiro had no idea.

    “You feeling okay?” a man’s voice sounded behind Kenjiro. It sounded young and strong, so it had to be Creon. He turned, and, sure enough, there was the young warlock with the long, black hair.

    “I’ve had a lot worse,” Kenjiro answered. Correcting himself, he said, “Well…I’ve had things that have hurt a lot worse.”

    “You should live,” Creon answered, “barring any…complications.”

    “Complications?” Kenjiro repeated, raising an eyebrow at Creon. “You never told me there’d be complications.”

    “Ha ha ha,” Creon laughed, clapping Kenjiro on the shoulder, which he didn’t like very much. “You should learn the beauties of having a sense of humor. It’ll help you with your girlfriend.”

    “What?” Kenjiro grunted. “I think you’re misunderstanding something…”

    “You’re kidding me, right?” Creon chuckled. “I saw you with her on the balcony.”

    “That doesn’t mean…” Kenjiro murmured, but Creon cut him off.

    “You tried to sacrifice yourself for her – and it would’ve worked, too, if Hong Liu hadn’t been able to see you right away! I’m not sure if you can convince yourself that it doesn’t mean anything,” Creon said, walking away. Kenjiro leaned over the railing of the three-masted ship and sighed.

    “Kenjiro…” he snapped out of his reverie when he heard a girl’s voice. He turned around and saw Reivyn walking toward him. In spite of himself, he felt an urge to hold her, to shield her from any unseen dangers. She was within a step of him when she stopped.

    “Is something wrong?” he asked immediately.

    “I just thought…” Reivyn mumbled. “I would ask you a question.”

    “What is it?” Kenjiro asked calmly as the red-haired girl walked past him.

    “If you love me…or anyone…why is it so difficult for you?” Reivyn asked. Kenjiro squinted as they emerged from what turned out to be another cavern. He looked in front of him and saw distant islands, as well as a very large one on the horizon. Wingull cawed as they flew in formation overhead. Perhaps it was because he had been in the dark caves for so long, but everything, even after he opened his eyes, looked so much brighter and better. He then remembered that Reivyn had asked a question – and an incomplete one, to boot.

    “Huh??” Kenjiro uttered. “What do you mean by that?”

    “Difficult to show that you love somebody,” Reivyn replied. Kenjiro sighed.

    “Who told you that I loved you?” he asked. Immediately he expected Reivyn to break down in tears, and he was surprised when she did not.

    “I know you do,” Reivyn answered. “Somehow, I just…”

    She trailed off and stopped speaking at once. There was an awkward silence.

    “Every time I look at you,” Kenjiro replied. “You remind me of that place…that’s why I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to look at me and see every acolyte who’s tried to kill you…every man that ever tried to touch you.”

    “I know you wouldn’t do that,” Reivyn whispered. He was now surprised to see that tears were indeed running down her eyes at a steady stream. “Because…because you love me…don’t you?”

    There was another long silence. Another flock of Wingull cawed overhead as Kenjiro took in the rushing waves. The last wall around him broke down.

    “I think I understand now,” Kenjiro sighed. “It’s been right in front of me for weeks, and I refused to see it.”

    “What do you mean?” Reivyn asked.

    “Reivyn…” Kenjiro took a deep breath. “I understand what Hayate tried to teach me all those years. You look at Travis…he’s just a kid, but he’s seen stuff that would drive a lot of men to madness. But he’s okay – or just on the edge of ‘okay’ – as long as he has her.”

    “You mean, they need each other to survive?” Reivyn asked.

    “Yeah,” Kenjiro said, nodding. “Exactly. He draws strength from knowing that she loves him. Maybe, one day…”

    He trailed off for a second.

    “Maybe, one day, you’ll feel the same way about me,” Kenjiro said, looking away from her for a moment. “But, if not…a man can dream, can’t he?”

    There was another extremely long silence.

    “You saved my life…again,” Reivyn said after this long lull. “Thank you.”

    For the first time since he was a small boy, Kenjiro let out a full laugh that was not mocking, sarcastic, or cynical. Reivyn looked at him. He was smiling, and it registered with her that, now that he was not constantly sullen and melancholy, he was actually quite handsome.

    “You saved mine first,” he said.

    “Kenji…do you think we’ll be free one day?” Reivyn asked. Kenjiro stared at her.

    “Better than that...we’re both free,” Kenjiro said. Reivyn gasped and quickly shut her mouth. “The Temple doesn’t keep its servants captive with chains or threats. You can leave the place if you try hard enough. But where they get you…they keep you captive in your own heads. They make you afraid to love anyone. They tell you…”

    “…If you love someone, it hurts more if you lose them,” Reivyn finished. Kenjiro looked at her and she quickly added, “That’s what Vausin said to me. But there’s something I don’t understand…”

    “What?” Kenjiro asked.

    “You have the chance to take me back to the Temple for clemency,” Reivyn said. “Why won’t you?”

    “It would hurt me if I lost you,” Kenjiro explained. Reivyn blinked. “But that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

    Reivyn gasped and her eyes began to water immediately. She wiped the tears from her face, smiled and looked up at him. She took his hands in her own.

    “No matter what they try,” Kenjiro said, “they can’t take anything else from us. We’ll have peace.”

    She continued to fix her eyes upon him. Her mouth opened very slightly, almost as if she knew what was coming.

    It wasn’t anything complicated, or too physical, or too deep. It didn’t say anything that didn’t need to be said, and it wasn’t pretentious or prolonged.

    But it had happened – and after it had happened, they found that they were face-to-face for a moment. Her face was burning, but a strange and pleasing sort of warmth passed over the remainder of her body. A sea breeze whipped her scarlet hair into life. She laid her head on his neck for a moment, then broke apart from him.

    There were still questions to be answered about themselves and where they fit in on this vast planet about which they knew relatively little. But slowly, those questions were being answered.

    They were making progress…together.


    Two Pokémon remained in the battle. On one side, a newly-acquired Pokémon, taken as a egg that hatched into a Torchic that subsequently evolved into the Combusken now standing upon the sand arena.

    On the other side, an Espeon that had been a faithful friend and partner to her Trainer for several years – a very competitive Pokémon that hated to lose once and absolutely refused to lose twice.

    Only one would be left standing when this fight was over…and Angel was determined that she would be that one.

    “BEGIN!” the referee shouted. Travis didn’t need telling twice.

    “Let’s go, Angel!” he yelled. “Star Shower Combination!!”

    “Star Shower? What’s he cooking up…?” Matthew muttered. He looked straight up as a large group of star-shaped points of light sat awkwardly against the sun and the daytime sky. Matthew recognized those stars at once. “That’s a Swift attack…”

    “Let ‘em drop,” Travis said with authority, waving his hand downward for emphasis. With loud screams, the energy stars began to hurtle toward the ground.

    “Shoot ‘em down! Ember attack!!” Matt shouted immediately. Combusken reared his head back and fired a salvo of tiny fireballs with the speed and constancy of an assault rifle. Flames hit stars in mid-air, resulting in explosions, the number of which would give modern-day Baghdad a run for its money. Combusken (who had jumped for better accuracy) landed on the ground and heard footsteps.

    “Too late! Quick Attack, Angel!!” Travis yelled.

    “Scratch!” Matt shouted.

    A lot of things happened at once here. Angel, who was moving toward Combusken at a speed barely slow enough for the human eye to pick up, was undaunted as she saw Combusken raise his claw. He brought it down on nothing but sand, as Angel reappeared six inches over toward Combusken’s left side and continued to advance.

    She made contact, her head leaning against Combusken’s left shoulder as the latter left his feet.

    “No good!” Matt groaned.

    “Confusion!!” Travis yelled a split-second later. The air around the two Pokémon was distorted for a moment. Then, almost as if Combusken had hit a force field…or rather, the force field had hit him…he went flying sideways across the sand arena out toward the sea a bit. He hit the ground at an angle that sent him into an uncontrollable roll. His arms flailed out wildly and swung as if someone had stuffed the Young Fowl Pokémon into a spin cycle. However, Combusken, whose species was known for its physical strength and athletic ability, stuck his claw down to control his roll, hit the ground shoulder-first, and skidded to a stop as he rolled back to one foot and one knee, dragging his sharp claws on the ground for balance and braking purposes. As he finally came to a halt, he flicked his claws out of the sand, bringing some of it up with him as the small grains, glowing a bit with the hot sunlight overhead, were carried away by the sea breeze in a rather aesthetically-pleasing display.

    “Oh, that’s it!” Matt groaned. “Combusken, Flamethrower!”

    “Flamethrower?!” Travis repeated, a bit surprised. “Double Team, then Quick Attack!!”

    Combusken used his Flamethrower a bit differently. He put his hands to his beak, almost as if he was shouting. Then he reared back and, with a loud cry, released a stream of red flames at Angel, who was moving so quickly toward Combusken that it looked like there were about eight of her, all standing still at different points, and a ninth that was actually moving for short spurts before disappearing again. Combusken shot a second Flamethrower and missed…then a third.

    “That’s enough, Combusken! Ready Meteor Ball!” Matt shouted. Angel jumped toward Combusken while the latter rounded his hands and a white ball of flame appeared.

    “BACK OFF!” Travis yelled in warning…Angel disappeared right in Combusken’s face…

    BOOM.

    Screams came from the crowd as the Meteor Ball hit the arena on the inland edge, closest to them. A huge cloud of dust erupted from the resulting explosion, beginning to swirl around the entire arena.

    “Angel!!” Travis shouted worriedly, shielding his face from the dust.

    “Slash!!” Matt’s yell came through the cloud of dust.

    “Damn, I can’t see where they are!!” Travis groaned in frustration. He heard several sounds of impact and a scream. “No!!”

    The dust cloud began to clear, but not before Angel was belched from it in a rolling heap, landing at Travis’ feet with a loud flump and looking extremely damaged. She rose nonetheless, and turned back toward Combusken, who looked a bit tired, too. Apparently his assault hadn’t gone unanswered, much to Travis’ relief.

    One Psybeam could finish this match, most likely…but Travis wasn’t sure how much Angel had left in her. She had always had trouble using Psybeam, even with relatively good energy. Now, as tired as she was, there was no way Travis could bring himself to use the attack.

    “Quick Attack!” Travis called. He could hear the desperation in his own voice. He was losing his grip.

    “Scratch, Combusken!!” Matthew yelled. Combusken, his claws at his side, took off running toward the center of the arena. Angel ran out to meet him. She leapt and hit nothing but air as Combusken launched himself into a side roll to evade the attack. Angel, having overextended herself horribly and gone flying through the air head over heels, landed on the back of her head – a maneuver that literally caused Travis to scream and then stop himself – and rolled to her feet to see the Fire-type rushing her again. She jumped left as a left claw came screaming through the air at her for a second time. She didn’t see the right foot, hidden under the sand like an Arbok ready to strike its helpless prey…

    WHAM.

    She was sent skyward, flipping and twisting as she went. The crowd all leaned backward in tandem to get a better look at the flailing Psychic-type hanging nearly twenty feet in the air.

    Matthew let out a roar of victory.

    “Double Kick!!” he laughed. “Finish her off!!”

    Combusken kicked up a cloud of dust as he leapt and ascended toward Angel’s ever-increasing height extremely quickly. Angel righted herself in midair and Travis knew that this was his only shot…he had to take it.

    “PSYBEAM!” he shouted. “USE PSYBEAM!!”

    After three agonizing seconds of preparation, the rainbow-colored beam burst forth from the gem on Angel’s head. Spinning in mid-jump, the target was able to avoid it…

    “NO!” Travis groaned in agony. What he didn’t know was that dodging the Psybeam forced Combusken to change direction in midair, therefore rendering him unable to aim his attack before gravity took effect and Angel fell past Matthew’s Pokémon. Combusken leaned his head back and relaxed as he fell. Angel went sailing through the air, but was on her feet as she landed on the ground, hit a dune of sand created by the upheaval of this battle, and performed a controlled roll down to Travis feet, at which point he gave a loud sigh. Combusken was already on the ground. Travis gave a sigh and found that he himself was very exhausted. His legs started to buckle a bit.

    “<Don’t you dare give out on me now! We’re this close!>” Angel shouted.

    “That’s my line,” Travis quipped, righting himself and taking in one huge breath. “Okay…”

    “Combusken, use Slash!!” Matthew growled. Combusken took three steps toward Angel, his claw ringing through the air. Angel flung herself sideways, avoiding the sweeping nails of the Young Fowl Pokémon. Combusken tripped; Travis saw his one and, perhaps, last chance…

    “Psybeam!” he shouted. The gem on Angel’s head began to glow a bright white, and before Matt could shout a warning, Combusken was enveloped in a rainbow-colored beam of Psychic energy.

    “Combusken!!” Matthew groaned. The Fire-type fell backward, spread-eagled against the sand.

    “One…two…three…four…” Travis panted to himself, echoing the shouts of the referee. It seemed to take forever for the referee to lower his hand.

    “Five.”

    The crowd erupted into cheers. Travis toppled back into a sitting position with a loud sigh. Angel ran up to Travis’ knees.

    “<We won!>” Angel exclaimed.

    “I’m beat…” Travis panted.

    “Hey! You alright, man?” Travis heard a voice and looked up once he realized that he was in shadow. Three forms were standing over him, two of them with their hands extended. Katrina he recognized almost immediately, but he was surprised to see a tan hand leading to an arm that led to a shoulder that sat under the head featuring the short hair and green eyes of Matthew Marius. Both Katrina and Matt grabbed Travis’ wrists and pulled hard, yanking him back to his feet. Travis stumbled immediately, but was supported by the both of them as the latter clapped him on the back. Travis and Matthew looked at each other for several tense seconds…

    …and burst into laughter. It was as if all of the aggression that was ever there between them had been released in that single, explosive battle. All of it had been left here in the sands, and the hate was gone. Travis looked at Matthew’s hair – lank, sweaty, hanging in a curtain over his eyes -- and smirked.

    “Do something with that,” he commented. “You look like an emo.”

    “Seriously, what’s your obsession with emos?” Matthew asked.

    Mariah and Katrina looked at each other, smiled, and shook their heads simultaneously.


    The trophies of the winner and runner-up sat unheralded on another table whilst four teenagers – four friends – sat at a place at an outdoor food court at the center of town. The sun was beginning its descent over the western horizon, and the temperature had cooled to that of a pleasantly balmy summer night.

    Travis and Katrina shared a soda, not bothering to get two straws, either. As they smiled and laughed with each other, Matthew and Mariah looked on almost in wonder for a while. Finally, it was the least likely of the four of them who spoke.

    “I see now why Rafael…” Travis saw Matthew grimace at the sound of the name and deduced that Matt’s previous experience with hearing about Rafael couldn’t have been pleasant. “…I see know why Rafael and I couldn’t beat you that time. You two have a great relationship going.”

    “She’s the one that makes it go, actually,” Travis laughed, nudging Katrina slightly. She brushed some of her roseate hair out of her face and grinned. “I just try to stay out of the way.”

    Matthew and Mariah both burst into laughter. After it died down, Katrina purred, “Don’t sell yourself short, Travis. You’re a great boyfriend.”

    “Aww,” Matthew uttered teasingly.

    “Shut up,” Travis said in a deadpan voice, crumpling a fresh napkin from the pile in front of him and throwing it at Matthew.

    “No, seriously – all joking aside,” Katrina said soberly. “You and Matthew are a good couple, too. But, you know…Travis and I really don’t know that much about you.”

    “Not much to tell, really,” Mariah said, “I’m Mariah Cecil – but you knew that already. My middle name is Bianca.”

    “Bianca? That’s a pretty name,” Katrina commented.

    “I guess I could have worse…” Mariah sighed with a smile. “What about you?”

    “Lynn,” Katrina said simply. Mariah looked at Travis, who had a strange expression on his face.

    “Sorry – it was just a fad from Gardner. Everyone went around asking each other’s middle names. That’s part of how we got nicknames for people and stuff,” she explained.

    “Good luck with mine – it’s Shelton,” Travis said. Katrina couldn’t tell if the ambiguous facial expression he had made right after telling them this was a laugh or a shudder. “I’m proud of the fact that I’m named after my grandfather, but…let’s put it this way. If I ever have sons, I won’t be naming any of them after me. Three generations is enough. Besides…if I have more than one son, I wouldn’t want the others to feel bad about not being named after me…or my dad…and so on…”

    Matthew laughed.

    “I guarantee you mine’s worse,” he said flatly. “Unless someone has a second middle name they’re not telling me about.”

    The other three shook their head in tandem.

    “Matthew Antonius Otto Marius,” Matt said with a shudder. The other three winced.

    “A little too long for me,” Travis commented. “Granted, I’m ‘Travis Shelton DePaul III’, so I can’t talk…”

    “Antonius?” Katrina repeated. “What’s with that?”

    (The real question she wanted to ask was “Had the meds worn off when your mom named you?” but she felt that’d be a little too rude.)

    “Oh. My grandfather – my mom’s dad – his name was Anton Schroeder. Madeline’s middle name is Antoinette, if you were wondering. She hates it – thinks it sounds old-fashioned.”

    “It doesn’t sound that bad…Madeline Antoinette…” Travis mused.

    “Of course, don’t tell her that – you know what she’d do to you,” Matthew commented.

    “Don’t remind me,” Travis groaned darkly. “Otto…so you’re named after your dad, too, right?”

    “Yeah…” Matt said a bit distractedly. “Madeline went to visit him last year, right? I wonder how he’s doing?”

    “You haven’t talked to him at all?” Katrina asked, sounding very shocked.

    “Not since he left when we were ten,” Matthew said, taking a sip of his own soda with the air of someone calmly saying that a loved one had died of a heart attack.

    “Matt!” Mariah scolded. “That’s nearly five years!”

    Travis winced ever so slightly as he turned to look at Katrina.

    “Yeah, well…” Matt shifted in his chair uncomfortably. “He didn’t seem to care for me and Madeline very much, did he? If he did, he either would have stayed with Mom or taken us with him when he left.”

    “He’s still alive, though,” Mariah moaned with a pained expression on her face. Matt looked guilty immediately.

    “Sorry,” Matt sighed. “I know that’s a sore subject for you…”

    Seeing the looks on Travis’ and Katrina’s faces, Mariah explained: “My dad was a firefighter. When I was two – Becca was eight, she’d remember better…”

    “Becca?” Katrina asked.

    “Rebecca, her sister,” Matt answered. “She moved out just as Mariah was finishing up her fourth year of school. Except…that’s all most public schools offer. Only the Academies offer the fifth and sixth-year studies, and the nearest two were New Bark – that’s your school – and Gardner.”

    “It just happened that Becca was moving to Violet City, so Mom let me move in with her. It was tough, but she knew I wanted to be a Trainer, so…” Mariah trailed off. “Anyway, my dad was with the fire department, and when I was two, he got called into a building fire on the west side of town. That’s where it gets fuzzy. My mom says that they started sending lifts up to the firefighters when the building was about to come down. Only thing was, they only fit four. So Dad let his four friends go and stayed for the next lift. That’s when the building collapsed.”

    Matt grimaced slightly. There was awkward silence for a long while. To everyone’s surprise, Mariah smiled.

    “So, now you know my life story, pretty much,” she said.

    “What about now?” Katrina asked. “Are you still a Trainer?”

    “The whole gym thing doesn’t really appeal to me for some reason,” Mariah said, shaking her head. “But…”

    “She’s interested in Pokémon Breeding,” Matt replied. Mariah smiled.



    Night fell, and the four of them all went back to the Pokémon Center and their rooms. While walking down the hall of the second floor, Travis put his hand to his mouth, yawning widely. After leaving the food court, they had found the Dewford Gym on the western half of town. Both Travis and Katrina signed up for matches the following day. (Matt, having arrived three days before them, had already beaten Brawly and earned his Knuckle Badge.)

    “Tired?” Matt asked.

    “I woke up at six in the morning,” Travis explained.

    “Yeah, that’ll do it,” Matt admitted. “207 – this is your room, right?”

    “Yeah, this is us,” Travis answered.

    “When are your matches again?” Matthew asked. From what they had found out, the next (pirate-free) ship to Slateport was scheduled to leave on the early morning of the 11th – the day after tomorrow. Therefore, Matthew and Mariah had a free day tomorrow.

    “Katrina’s at ten; mine’s at two,” Travis explained. The noon slot was unavailable; even Gym Leaders had to eat at some point. “I guess we’ll do like Brawly and get lunch between the two matches.”

    “That works,” Matthew answered, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, see ya.”

    Travis remained silent as Matthew and Mariah walked off, leaving him and Katrina alone.

    “Matt’s grown up a lot since two years ago,” Travis commented.

    “We all have,” Katrina said, taking a small card and swiping it through a slot on the door. Hearing a click, Katrina turned the knob and opened the door. Travis followed her inside and closed it behind him. Katrina, climbing a small ladder sat down on her bed and moved toward the end. Getting the message, Travis kicked off his sandals, put them near a dresser, and climbed up with her. They stared at each other and smiled broadly.

    “So…how did you do it?” Katrina asked.

    “Do what?” Travis questioned.

    “Make up with him,” Katrina replied simply. Travis chuckled.

    “Oh…that. I guess I couldn’t really remember why I was mad at him in the first place,” he answered.

    “Maybe, one day, you will be back to your old self,” Katrina commented, laying her head on his shoulder. “Back then, you used to look for the good in people.”

    Travis sighed. That was back when he was just a small child, consumed by a worldview fraught with idealism and naivety. That was back before the war, before the sword, before he sacrificed his sanity to save a nation.

    “You’re so cynical nowadays,” Katrina commented.

    “That’s because I grew up,” Travis replied tersely. “Now...I know everyone has some kind of dark side – no matter how much they try and admit that they’re perfect…they’re not.”

    Katrina remained silent.

    “Everyone says that they’re okay…they’re not okay,” Travis muttered. “You’ll never hear me tell anyone I’m ‘alright’, because I’m not…I still see him in my nightmares every so often. Those cold eyes…that huge arm that looks like it came from some sort of hell spawn…”

    “Please, stop…” Katrina whispered.

    “But the scariest thing?” Travis said. “In the nightmare, I’m not fighting him again. In the nightmare…I’m looking in a mirror. Looking at my true self.”

    “You’re nowhere near as evil as Angelos was!!” Katrina exclaimed, her eyes watering.

    "But I have the potential to be, don’t I?!” Travis roared. Then, realizing he’d been too harsh, he looked away from her. “That’s what I’m starting to figure out, Katrina. I’ll never go back to the way I was. I can’t.”

    “You’re here, aren’t you?!” Katrina shouted.

    “That’s…” Travis began to shout again. Realizing that it wouldn’t make things any better (as Katrina, who was seldom weepy, was sobbing as she looked at him), Travis lowered his voice. “That’s because I learned that when things come crashing down, you just have to pick up as many pieces as you can and try to do something with them. Fortunately, I had enough pieces left to salvage…just barely. But, the stuff that’s missing…”

    “Everyone has pieces that are missing, Travis,” Katrina said, drying her eyes, “and some of them are pieces that you think you’ll never get back once you lose them. Sometimes, though…if you keep it up don’t give up hope…”

    She put her hand on his right leg, indicating the spot where this limb had broken several times in the final fight with Angelos two summers ago.

    “…you get a miracle.”

    She leaned in toward him and their lips met. This meeting was a simple, unrefined thing; technique was a nonfactor, the years were no longer significant. All that remained was the emotion behind it and what it meant to him. The feelings felt during a first kiss are a thing that can only happen once. If ever, though, there was a quality imitation, this was it. His mind went back to that summer night under the aureate moon of Goldenrod City. She had been wearing that beautiful dress that day, and they were so happy to be together at last.

    She broke apart from him after a while, applying an ever-so-gentle nibble to his lip just to remind him that it wasn’t 2011 anymore.

    “Think about it,” she said. “We’ve come too far to start doubting ourselves.”

    They held each other and sat there for a few minutes in silence, watching the light from the moon filter into their room through the window blinds.

    “Um…Travis?” Katrina asked. For once, she sounded slightly apprehensive. “I have a question.”

    “What is it?” Travis asked.

    “Matt made a comment earlier today and it got me thinking,” Katrina replied. “I know it’s kind of dumb, because we’re not even fifteen yet, but…do you think…”

    She trailed off and asked the question very quickly – so quickly that it was almost as if she hoped that Travis would miss it, she would say “never mind,” and they could go back to cuddling each other in silence.

    “Do you think we could be married one day?” she asked. Travis heard her perfectly and his heart leapt into his throat. At the same time, though…he wasn’t sure.

    “Maybe,” he said. Katrina smiled.

    “Well, at least that leaves the door open,” she said, closing her eyes and leaning against him. As she succumbed to fatigue on his shoulder, she was unaware of what she had actually done for him in that moment.


    …It was just like Travis and Katrina had no idea of the great excursion on which Kenjiro and Reivyn, now in the room next to them, had embarked. Reivyn lay down on the low bed and alertly watched Kenjiro as he stared out of the second-floor window for a few moments. She then watched as he circled the desk to stand above her bed. Quietly, he knelt down.

    “Good night,” he said, standing up. Reivyn stopped him:

    “Wait.”

    He halted and turned around. Blearily, she looked at him and made the strangest of requests.

    “Kenji…would you…please…kiss me again?”

    Kenjiro was caught off guard for a moment. He leaned down gently toward her and laid his lips upon hers for a moment. Once he broke apart from her, he realized that she was already asleep. He took her hand.

    “Sweet dreams,” he said, walking over to his bed. As he lay down, he heard a groan from her side of the room. She seemed to be muttering in her sleep.

    “Kenji...I love you…”

    He sat up for a moment. It had been years since those words had been said to him and meant anything. Reaching around his back, he pulled out the dagger that had once pierced his brother’s heart, setting it on the table, where it gleamed in the sunlight. He sighed and drew his feet into the bed, looking straight across the table at her beautiful face, smiling in her slumber. So peaceful her face was now; where she was, nothing was chasing her or hurting her. So, he finally said it, knowing somehow that, wherever her dreams had taken her this time, his words would find her.
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 10th September 2007 at 5:33 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  8. #158
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    Air Dragon is first in line, Air Dragon is first in line!

    You know how it works...

    right, i think we'd best take this from the top...

    Grammar check:

    best encapsulizes the style that I've been using
    best encapsulates the style that I've been using

    taken as a egg that hatched
    taken as an egg that hatched

    L@er!
    Last edited by Air Dragon; 11th September 2007 at 10:10 AM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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  9. #159
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    Quote Originally Posted by EonMaster One View Post
    ~~~ *** ~~~
    “I’m fine!” Champ groaned.
    Should have those little <.....> things like you usually use to distinguish Pokemon and human speak.

    Honestly, this one on the best chapters in Advent Phoenix to date. It seems like Travis is slowly becoming himself, instead of a sword happy maniac. I was happy to see that Travis's hatred of Matt has become a slow friendship. Oh yeah...mass produced Templeshipping for all! I really though Kenjiro was dead, for awhile. And the fact that Kenjiro was a Temple Knight was a huge plot twist! But we all know he's a good guy, especially when it comes to Reivyn. Anyways,awesome chapter as usual!

  10. #160
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    I'm back.

    I've kinda been on holiday for a while and I got back for some uber chapter readage. On PRJ I got near the finale of season 2 about the Cianwood bit.

    Anyway, I forgot what chapter I was on when I last posted so I'll just do Dewford.

    Intro of Matt was well put in there, get the battling rivalries back into it for a while, take the subject from swords and evil kings at least for a chapter or so.

    The tournament, very good, my favourite was 'Cactadder' a decent sounding snake pokemon that isn't portayed as either a retard or a fat blob.

    Templeshipping Ahoy. gay shop owner with hinty hinty, secluded mine cart ride, *** kicking, almost dieing and a superb kill from Reivyn, kudos to the girl.

    To end Matt and Travis, chums? what next. maybe Madeline will get out of her gonad destroying habit, men can only hope. Katrina can also have a girlfriend to discuss stuff with now those two kissed and made up.

    A slight grammar complaint though. I'm not sure riffraff as you spelt it is all one word, i'm sure its riff raff or riff-raff. or am I just making it up.

    erm. well I had something to say here but I forgot so I'll leave you to writing and if I remember I shall regard it later. Bye
    Skogsrå

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

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  11. #161
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    That... *gasps*... took... an effing... long... time... *gasps again*

    Hi EonMaster One, since around the start of this month I had been reading PRJ, and finally after 976 pages on Word, I am finished!!! Phew, that was one long read - but now I can move onto your next masterpiece, Advent Phoenix. I'm looking forward to another great read, and yeah, although it may take a while, I plan on catching up so that I can become a regular reviewer. Anyways, good work with PRJ, hope Advent Phoenix is even better!


  12. #162
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    Hi there, I'd just like to point out a few inconsistencies I've noticed:
    In PR: J, during the Sea-borne "Megatite" fight sequence, you say that several of the drones firing cannons, "stop their ears" to protect from the sound...why would they need to? They're robots.
    In PR: AP, when the two pirate crews first clash at sea, Travis is mentioned seeing some women on the opposing ship with beards...yet, when Katrina is shanghaied onto the other vessel, she's said to be the only woman onboard.
    ---
    That's all I've found, please keep up the good work!
    Cheers,
    -mike
    I can proudly say I've caught all three Legendary Birds with Poke'Balls. It required 500+, altogether. I still have 231 left, counting down.

  13. #163
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    Yeah - probably the biggest obstacle to reading a sequel fic (speaking of which, WHERE THE HELL IS SABER?!?!?!) is the fact that, sometimes, to understand what's going on and the background for stuff, you have to go all the way back to the beginning. My plans for the third installment in the Revolution series involve a starting over of sorts.

        Spoiler:- SPOILER WARNING!!:


    What I mean by 'starting over' is that my intent with YoD is to make it accessible to readers who haven't read the first two. Granted, a small bit of background info comes from certain passages, but these characters are related so distantly to the main heroes of PRJ and AP that reading YoD won't require the other two, whereas reading Advent Phoenix almost mandates that you have read Revolution Johto first.

    As for the Johto inconsistency, Angelos made his normal drones (with the exception of the berserkers) as human as possible. Angelos couldn't bring together enough willing humans and strip away their free will, so he found it easier to build drones that looked and acted just like humans would, but could be programmed to fit his interests. Also, this was an arbitrary decision of mine, as the amount of hack-and-slash involved in the second part of the fanfic would have jacked the rating up to M in a heartbeat if all of the AURA casualties were humans and therefore bled and oozed as such.

    As for the AP inconsistency, that can be chalked up to Travis not knowing whether they were women or not. Of course, I could just pull a Deus Ex Machina and say that all of the 'women' on the ship got killed off during the battle. But I'm just gonna be honest - I forgot. There was a bit of a gap in between when I did Chapters 10 and 11, so...yeah.

    In any case, back to the present. I'm very nearly done with Chapter 17 - it wouldn't be a stretch to say that it'll be up some time this weekend, if not sooner. 17's a bit active - that's why it's taking a while.

    18's going to be...well, like nothing I've ever done before. I'm really looking forward to it. What happens in Chapter 18's so important and pivotal that I couldn't lump it in with what was going to be 19 - it needs and deserves its own chapter.

    Anyway, that's where I'm standing right now. For those of you that can't help but feel a little bit sorry for Travis (I don't blame you...I've put the poor guy through a lot XD), take heart; it'll be a little while before Travis has to use his sword again.

    That's about all - good night to anyone in the states (seeing as it's about 12:30 Eastern), and have a good day, I guess, to the UK and anywhere else where it happens to be morning right now.

    - EM1, out.
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 20th September 2007 at 6:00 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  14. #164
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    Default

    Alright, I was just wanting to make sure you recognized those :P
    And fantastic job, I've been reading this Fic since the debut of Chapter 32 (?) of Revolution Johto.
    Cheers,
    -mike
    I can proudly say I've caught all three Legendary Birds with Poke'Balls. It required 500+, altogether. I still have 231 left, counting down.

  15. #165
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    Default Chapter 17

    I seriously think that the last chapter I did was far and away the longest I have ever written. There was just so much meaty goodness to try to squeeze into that chapter that I couldn’t slice it in half or anything. All for the best, seeing as Chapter 16 took me a good two weeks to finish…O_O

    Well, this one’s going to be moving a lot more quickly and probably won’t be quite as long as the last. Battles galore. Yesssh…

    Chapter 17: The Art of Knuckling Down


    June 10, PA 2013 – Romero Mansion, Outskirts of Rustboro City

    A young man wearing a green cloak closed the door to the Romero Mansion behind him as he stepped inside. Putting his hands to the hood over his head, he lifted it off now that he was in a safe place to do so. His dark hair and gentle, russet face belied his occupation of a warrior – a knight in ‘’Hoenn’s last bastion against tyranny,” as his father tended to call it. Rashid al-Zevi was one of the leaders in the Emerald Knights, the small band of followers loyal to Prince Elrik. He had returned from scouting the city – Rustboro City, that is. For now, it was his job to watch for any suspicion from the Imperial Knights of King Edgar. If the Imperial Knights stationed in Rustboro had any hint of the Prince’s presence (unlikely, as the official report was that Elrik had been dead for nearly two years), the Emerald Knights would have to relocate for the sake of Elrik’s safety as well as their own.

    Today, though…

    An aging man with a face, hair, and features markedly similar to the young man that had just walked in was approaching Rashid. This older man was wearing, as most of the Emerald Knights wore, a silver breastplate with the legendary Rayquaza engraved into it. A scimitar was at his side, ready to be drawn should the need for it arise.

    “News?” the older man asked.

    “Well, the war between the Imperials and the citizens rages on,” Rashid sighed. “One thing I noticed, though…do you remember Kazaki and those kids causing a little bit of a stir last month. It was a fight over one of the shops of the square.”

    “Hm?” the older man uttered. “Yes, I think I remember that. Captain Fergus of the Imperial Knights was killed that day.”

    “Well, the Imperials finally relented. They let the family keep their shop open, provided that they at least appear to show less partiality to His Majesty the Prince,” Rashid sighed. “Personally, I’ll take a victory anywhere I can find it. Speaking of Kazaki…what about the order you gave him? We haven’t heard from him in about two weeks.”

    “I’m sure he’s doing it if he knows he’s supposed to,” the older man answered. “I don’t like his personality one bit, but I will say that he does what he’s told…even if he tends to be a little bit of a brat at times.”

    “What about the others?” Rashid asked. “Dragonfall Project?”

    “What about them?” the older man replied. “If that boy is really who everyone says he is, then he can handle himself.”

    “I heard that the pirates have started attacking Imperial ships,” Rashid said. “Rumor is that when those three…four, I guess, if you include the other girl that was with them…were on their way to Dewford, there was some kind of stir. I hear…”

    “What, boy?” the older man – talking as such because he was Rashid’s father, Roald – shouted. “Spit it out!”

    “I hear that the captain of the Selma is dead, and that his son has control of both ships,” Rashid answered. “He had a run-in with the Solaris, too…”

    “So, at least the Imperials are busy,” Roald muttered, turning around and walking away from his son. “Hurry up. We’ve been waiting for you. The Council is about to start.”



    A round table with a statuette of Rayquaza – the patron of the Hoenn royal family – sat in the middle of this empty room that looked that it might have been at one point used as the dining room for the Romero family. Now, though, it was a table for discussing current events, like security and their next course of action.

    Toward the far wall, clothed in his royal outfit and cape, was the young Prince Elrik of Hoenn. From his spot in the largest chair (presumably where the patriarch of the Romero family would have seated himself in times past), he surveyed the rest of the table with his violet eyes. To his right was a young woman about his age dressed stiffly in full armor and looking straight ahead. She seemed to be avoiding his gaze for some reason, but Elrik was used to this already. Counterclockwise from her was a seat that was noticeably empty – the young man that normally occupied this seat was out and about Hoenn on a mission. However, due to his obnoxious attitude during Councils and his refusal to listen to any plan that directly sought to avoid bloodshed, Kenjiro Kazaki was not missed much.

    On Elrik’s left were the two dark-skinned men – the father and son that, along with the woman to Elrik’s right, were his top commanders. He called them that, but at present these titles were at best only that. In any normal circumstance, they would be the commanders of his army…if they had a real army to command. Their force consisted of about a hundred (if that) crack Knights that had remained loyal to Elrik in spite of (or perhaps because of) Edgar’s threats about what he would do to them if they behaved otherwise.

    “So,” Elrik said, surveying his few helpers. “How are we doing?”

    “To tell you the truth, sire, we really don’t know,” Roald was the first to respond to the Prince, which everyone in the room expected. Being the eldest and most experienced of all of the Emerald Knights (even more so than his own commander, Ivanna McAdrien, who inherited the title from her father), he was usually allowed the first and last words in any given Council. “Kenjiro left with those kids the last day we saw him. We haven’t heard from him since, but my guess is that he’s in Dewford. Hopefully he got the message I went through so much trouble to send…”

    “About Master Hong?” Elrik asked.

    “Yes, that one,” Roald said.

    “Security?” Elrik questioned simply.

    “The Imperial Knights are distracted with other issues,” Rashid answered. “We’re safe here…for now.”

    “That’s good,” Elrik seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. His violet eyes scanned the table again as he said, “What about building up our strength?”

    “Easier said than done…sire,” Roald answered. “We can’t exactly go out and parade the fact that we’re plotting to overthrow the king.”

    “That’s true,” Rashid sighed. “But…unless people know what we’re doing, how can we be sure whether or not they’re on our side?”

    “It’d be a lot easier if we could eliminate most of the Imperials from Rustboro,” Roald mused.

    “That sounds like a brutal plan,” Ivanna finally spoke, her curly, blonde hair hanging down to her shoulders. “We want as few casualties as possible, don’t we?”

    “I agree,” Elrik replied. “We don’t want to be like my brother…he has no control over his strength. He just cuts down anyone he thinks is in his way.”

    “Besides, half of the soldiers only serve Edgar and the Imperial Army because they think you’re dead or because Gorba bullies them into it. You know they’ve started up a draft?” Rashid asked.

    “Draft?” Elrik gasped. “But that hasn’t been instituted since…”

    “The Hundred-Day War,” Roald sighed. “I was just a boy, no more than about ten or eleven years old. No disrespect to your late grandfather, Your Majesty, but history shows us how that fine plan ended up…”

    “You think my brother wants to invade Johto?” Elrik said, his eyes wide and desperate.

    “Well, I won’t take the chance that he’s calling this kingdom an ‘empire’ just to sound intimidating,” Roald answered.

    “But…if Hoenn declares war on Johto…the Albaran Pact!!” Rashid gasped.

    “Exactly – ‘Whosoever desires the one shall in equal measure receive the other,’” Roald said. “In simplest terms, that means that if Hoenn attacks Johto, Kanto will come to their aid. Valorian forgot about that pact – a mistake that cost our country many lives, including that of my father…”

    Elrik heaved a sigh, turning to the woman on his right.

    “What do you think, Ivanna?” the prince asked. The knight commander’s flaxen curls trembled slightly as she turned her head to look at the prince.

    “Your course of action is best, Your Majesty,” she said robotically.

    “How I wish it was…” Elrik sighed mournfully. “It was my course of action…or lack thereof…that put us in this very situation. If I had shown a bit more courage, then perhaps Sir Izaak wouldn’t have…”

    “Please do not blame yourself, Your Majesty,” she sighed.

    “In any case, I know one man cannot command a legion, just as one man cannot rule an entire country by himself. That is one thing my father taught me,” Elrik said, standing up. “I value your opinions – all of you. This Council is adjourned. Roald, we can wait no longer. You have three days to find out whether Kazaki’s mission was a success. Is that doable for you?”

    “Of course, my king,” Roald said. Prince Elrik sighed. He felt he had no right to that title – at least, not yet.

    Elrik turned to talk to Ivanna, maybe perhaps to steal a moment’s peace with her, but found that she was gone from the room already. Roald and his son were departing quickly as well, leaving him utterly alone with the two guards in the room who had stood there silently and alertly for the duration of the Council. His heart was heavy and saddened.

    “Leave me in peace.”

    The two guards saluted him wordlessly and marched outside. He sighed as he buried his eyes in one of his hands. His patience with Ivanna had run out.



    He had changed his clothes and was wearing a simple nobleman’s outfit – a black, button-down shirt with silver buttons and a stiff, upturned collar that made him look very nearly like a priest, as well as khaki pants. This was the outfit he had used in slightly more dangerous times to travel from place to place, until they finally found this building and began to use it as their base for operations. As he trudged up the hallway on the second floor and reached the next to last door on the left (at the end of the hallway was his own room, tucked away at the furthest wall), he found two women dressed in the green outfits and silver armor customary of the Emerald Knights. These were Ivanna’s guards and, despite their beautiful appearance, were as good with a sword as any man in the ranks with the exception, perhaps, of the two men of the al-Zevi family, Roald and his son, Rashid.

    It took a moment for them to realize who stood before them. As Elrik was normally seen in his royal attire, they were suspicious at first. However, they recognized the face before long, and therefore stood at attention upon noticing him.

    “At ease,” Elrik sighed. “In fact…why don’t you take some time and rest? You must be tired or hungry or…something. I’ll send someone for you when you’re needed again.”

    Apprehensively, the two women looked at him for a second and walked off. Gingerly, Elrik raised a hand and knocked on the wooden door twice. The door swung open moments afterward, revealing a young woman with curly, blonde hair. Elrik’s eyes immediately registered that Ivanna was wearing a dress of some sort as opposed to armor. By the time Elrik opened his mouth to speak, Ivanna had let out a slight gasp and attempted to shut the door in his face.

    Not once to force his way into the living quarters of a woman, he simply called out, “Ivanna.”

    She stopped, one of her gray eyes looking straight at Elrik through the crack of the door. Wordlessly, she stepped away from the door and allowed Elrik in. The room was unadorned just like the others, save for a small portrait. Elrik, with a sudden pang of the heart, remembered that portrait.

    “Your Majesty,” Ivanna finally questioned, “if I may ask, what brings you here?”

    “Nothing in particular,” Elrik answered tensely. There was a long awkward silence. Elrik finally got a good look at Ivanna’s face and saw two shining streaks under her eyes, indicating that she had been crying very recently. Trying to appear discreet, Elrik walked over to the small desk where the picture was located. It showed a picture of a girl with curly, blonde hair – judging by her size and her figure, she might have been in her pre-teen years. She was wearing a royal-blue dress with spaghetti straps and glittering silver trim that matched her eyes very well. Standing behind her with both of his strong hands on his shoulders was a man in a nobleman’s outfit. Prince Elrik could tell that he was quite muscular, even through his khaki-colored suit jacket and pants and dark-blue shirt. Elrik found the grizzled mane of dirty-blond hair and the rugged beard and sideburns. He recognized the man at that point. It was a picture of a young Ivanna and her father, Izaak McAdrien. The picture was slightly worn with age, but it seemed that Ivanna had made a point of keeping that picture inside this small, leaning frame in order to prevent further damage to it.

    The silence was a creepy kind of blankness, like a television where you could see what was going on although the sound was completely muted. Elrik gazed at the picture and, almost before the words were forming in his head, they were coming from his mouth.

    “You must miss him a lot,” he said.

    “Erm – Your Majesty?” Ivanna uttered, almost incredulously.

    “Your father – Sir Izaak,” Elrik explained. Ivanna took in a loud breath.

    “I don’t…” she stammered shakily for a second. Then, she seemed to regain control of herself, and spoke again. “I don’t know quite what you mean…sire.”

    “You don’t have to be ashamed of pain, Ivanna,” Elrik said softly. “I miss my father, too…”

    “Your Majesty,” Ivanna said, stealing one look at the prince before quickly gazing toward a wall so intently that she could have burned a hole through it at any second. “I do not want to burden you with my…personal matters.”

    The prince’s eyes hardened as if the woman had said something very offensive.

    “I know, Ivanna…and that’s what irritates me so much about who you’ve turned into.”

    Ivanna stopped dead in her tracks and turned toward Elrik. The two locked eyes for a moment, Elrik studying Ivanna with a pitying look on his face. Ivanna tore her eyes away and spoke.

    “Your Majesty,” Ivanna muttered – but Elrik had heard enough.

    “Stop!!” he shouted, not caring whether the entire castle heard him. If the guards came in at this point, he would just send them away. “I’m not wearing my robes, and you’re not wearing your armor, so can we please talk to each other like normal people?!”

    Ivanna responded with…nothing. She was in shock; she had only seen Elrik this angry once before. Her head dropped as in bowing.

    “I don’t want you to bow to me, Ivanna,” Elrik sighed. He tried to hold back what was coming next, but the thing that he’d been waiting to get off his chest for at least a year came flooding to the surface, and there was no way to stop it. “To tell you the truth…part of me doesn’t want to be King.”

    Ivanna looked up at him. Elrik continued to talk.

    “When you’re a royal, who do you have to relate to – to share your life with?” Elrik asked. “No one considers himself to be your equal – everyone either wishes to serve you or depose you -- so you have no one, really. Even though I have all of these knights and people that support me…I feel alone. Do you remember when we were kids? We were best friends.”

    Ivanna stayed silent for several moments. The next thing that was heard was the patting of footsteps – the footsteps of Prince Elrik walking toward the door.

    “I guess you don’t remember,” Elrik said in a pained mutter, He reached his hand toward the door and stopped. He turned around and grabbed one of Ivanna’s palms. He didn’t say anything – he just held her hand for several moments. Then, he let it go and walked out, leaving Ivanna to caress the hand he had just held and hold it to her heart, the hardness in her face beginning to fade a bit.


    Dewford Gym


    Travis left out a slight grunt as he caught the edge of one of the stairs in the Dewford Stadium, which was, as always, full of people who were all murmuring in anticipation for this morning battle. There were easily a couple thousand people in the stadium, and Travis was another of them – another of them that nearly knocked another dozen of them over by tripping.

    “<Ow! Hey, watch it!>” Angel groaned as she was on the receiving end of an inadvertent kick.

    “Travis, down here!” a shout came from in front of Travis as he was bumped again. He lost his balance, yelled a loud swearword and began to fall right past where he heard the voices. Travis felt an arm seize him and pull him sideways. He stumbled into the end of a row of seats and found a tan arm grabbing his wrist. He followed the arm up to the shoulder and found Matt, grimacing and shaking his head.

    “This is why it’s best to be down there,” he commented as Travis settled into the seat that Matt and Mariah had saved for him. Angel jumped into Travis’ lap and curled into a ball, craning her neck in an attempt to look through the sea of people. Just as she did that, to her great dismay, a pair of teenage girls stood up and cheered loudly, again obscuring her vision. Leaning around them, Travis saw that a strapping, young man wearing a yellow muscle shirt that showed off his sculpted body as well as jean shorts. He appeared to be in his early twenties or so, and had wild, baby-blue hair that looked like it had been brushed about three good times since he was born. Travis looked up on the huge screen that had been set up in the corner of the stadium. It showed this young man pointing at the camera as he winked and flashed a winning smile. Matt rolled his verdant eyes. (He had the skullcap and brown outfit on again.)

    “What a pretty boy,” he muttered.

    “Can he battle as well as he can wink and blow kisses to the fans?” Travis said.

    “Hate to admit it…” Matthew sighed. “But you guys might have a hard time. What’s she got?”

    “Nice try, Matt,” Travis quipped. “You’ll have to see for yourself. Oh – there she is!!”

    Polite applause greeted Katrina Sasano as she emerged from the opposite tunnel, rose-pink hair gleaming in the sunlight. Her shades were down on her face, obscuring her eyes as she calmly walked toward the red Trainer’s Box. She planted her feet there and took her shades off, revealing baby-blue eyes that meant business.


    On the opposite side of the stadium, another pair of youths began to settle into their seats. The male of the two (for they came as a couple – more or less) looked behind and around him as he began to strafe into the row. The girl – shorter with red hair and carrying a small bag of popcorn, a snack that she’d heard was rather fun to eat – turned around and looked at him.

    “What’s wrong, Kenji?” she asked, gazing questioningly at him with those silver eyes of hers.

    “Nothing,” he said, looking over his shoulder. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

    “Are you sure??” she asked, stopping for a second.

    “HEY, DOWN IN FRONT!” a rude shout came from a couple rows up. The young man looked up and rolled his eyes.

    “Come on! Kenji!” the girl shouted, jumping up and down with the popcorn in her hands (thereby spilling a kernel or four onto the ground). “A seat’s over here!!”

    Kenjiro sighed and muttered apologies as he stepped on a foot or two on the way over to the red-haired girl. He saw the seat she had pointed out and sat down. She sat down next to him and noticed that he was looking to his left rather apprehensively.

    “Are you sure nothing’s wrong with you?” she asked.

    “Nothing, Reivyn,” Kenjiro replied a bit impatiently. “I’m just checking to see if…”

    “If…what?” Reivyn asked curiously.

    “If…there are any of them,” Kenjiro admitted. “You never know…”

    “I thought you said they couldn’t reach islands like this one,” Reivyn replied.

    “I thought they couldn’t…” Kenjiro muttered. “…before yesterday.”

    It was hard to believe that, at this time yesterday, Kenjiro Kazaki had literally been at death’s door, the victim of an attack by Imperial Knights as well as the Shoryuu Temple members. It was the latter that he was worried about.

    “Hold on!!” Reivyn shouted. Kenjiro jumped and gave a slight yell as Reivyn grabbed his arm.

    “What?! What happened?” he questioned loudly.

    “Don’t we know her?” Reivyn asked, pointing at the pink-haired girl toward the bottom, whom she could not see from a distance (or on the screen, which was currently displaying the referee as he called out the rules for the match).

    “Hm?” Kenjiro uttered, recognizing the pink hair right away. “That’s Katrina, isn’t it?”



    As Matthew and Mariah continued to look on, Travis asked, “Brawly uses Fighting-types, right?”

    “Mostly,” Matt answered.

    “What do you mean, ‘mostly’?” asked Travis a bit suspiciously. “I thought you said he was a one-type Gym Leader.”

    “He is,” Matt answered. Travis groaned.

    “You’re no help at all,” he jibed.



    Katrina looked across the field at Brawly as both Trainers made their first selections.

    “Gotta focus,” she muttered to herself.

    “<Focus,>” Crescent, the Umbreon by her ankle, mimicked.

    “I think I hear an echo,” Katrina taunted.

    “<I think I hear an echo,>” Crescent mocked her again.

    “Well…if you’re in such a good mood, why don’t you go first this time?” Katrina said, rolling her eyes.

    “<About time!>” Crescent shouted, stepping up onto the battlefield.

    “A Dark-type?” Brawly muttered. “Tch, this is gonna be a piece of cake. Let’s ride, Makuhita!!”

    “Hey, what the hell?!” Matt shouted as he saw the match-up.

    “Yeah, you see it, too,” Travis said calmly.

    “What’s Katrina doing?” Matt asked.

    “Honestly? No clue,” Travis answered, shrugging his shoulders. “First off, she never uses Crescent first thing in a battle, and, on top of that…she’s at a type disadvantage. She must know something that I don’t.”

    “Not used to that feeling, are ya?” Matt ribbed.

    “Very funny, Matt,” Travis answered in the annoyed monotone he had become accustomed to using.

    The Makuhita appeared on the other side of the field – yellow and quite rotund, with black gloves for hands. An innocent, fully chubby smile seemed to be pasted on his lemon-colored face, and small, rosy ringlets stuck out on his cheeks. Overall, he looked something like a well-done craft a five-year-old had put together during day care. The only things that looked remotely intimidating about him were those black gloves. He held his arms down at his sides like he had lead weights on his fists.

    “<I don’t know why, but I get the impression that those boxing gloves wouldn’t feel very good if they hit…>” Crescent mused.

    “We’re just going to have to keep away from them, then, aren’t we?” Katrina intoned.

    “BEGIN!!” the referee shouted. Katrina gave a slight gasp; she wasn’t quite ready.

    “Makuhita, open up with Arm Thrust!!” Brawly shouted.

    Makuhita took a couple of quick steps toward the Umbreon…

    “Uh-oh…” Matt muttered as Makuhita began to pick up momentum. “Is Makuhita supposed to be that fast?”

    WHAP.

    Crescent groaned as he was clouted by an incoming fist. He skidded backward as his sable fur stood on end.

    “<Ouch!>” he snarled.

    “Crescent, get out of there!” Katrina cried. Crescent regained his wits just as he saw a black glove advance toward him for the second time. He jumped left and the long arm hit nothing but air soon after. Makuhita, still in mid-punch, was exposed. “Quick Attack!”

    Crescent became a black blur as he smashed into the nearly-200-pound creature, knocking him flat.

    “OH!” Matt snapped his finger in approval.

    “Nice hit!” Travis shouted as Angel uttered a veritable squeal of delight.

    Makuhita rolled to his feet, the smile wiped from his face as he stared down the Moonlight Pokémon.

    “Mega Punch!” Brawly roared. Makuhita wound up his arm as the black glove on the end of it began to glow a bright white. He advanced on Crescent and raised his fist toward the Umbreon’s chin. Makuhita made contact with the uppercut, hitting Crescent and sending him into the air in a long, slow arc. Crescent regained control of his body and came right-side up again as he hit the ground and staggered.

    “<No!!>” Angel cried.

    “Damn it!” Matt groaned. “She’s getting hammered down there!!”

    “Shadow Ball!” Katrina ordered, gesturing at Makuhita. Crescent opened his mouth and released a crackling, black ball of energy. Makuhita was much too slow; he attempted to move but was hit on his right side and spun around like a top.

    “Makuhita’s completely defenseless!!” Matt yelled.

    “Quick Attack!” Katrina yelled. Crescent accelerated until he was nothing more than a black blur streaking across the field. He leapt into the spinning golden blur and made contact, stopping Makuhita from spinning.

    “Vital Throw, Makuhita!!” Brawly shouted. Makuhita raised his hands, grabbed the sixty-pound Umbreon around his flank, and bodily pitched him from one side of the arena back to the other. Crescent hit the ground with a THUMP and bounced high into the air.

    “Holy…” Matt gasped in shock, locked in a half-standing, half-sitting position.

    “<Oh, my gosh! Crescent!>” Angel shouted worriedly as Makuhita began a rather comical victory dance of flexing his biceps despite the fact that his physical appearance made him look perpetually obese. Crescent was down, and wasn’t getting up. The referee began the five-count.

    “One…two…three…”

    Crescent began to stir.

    “Four…f— ” the referee lowered his hand about halfway as Crescent staggered to his feet. The crowd erupted into cheers; Travis, Matt, Mariah, and Angel all breathed sighs of relief while the last of these fixed her eyes in a dreamy stare down toward the arena. Meanwhile, on the field, Brawly grimaced and Makuhita stomped the ground in frustration.


    “Is Katrina winning?” Reivyn questioned as she attempted to crane her neck over a rather tall man in front of her to see what was going on. She asked Kenjiro this question for what seemed like the tenth time.

    “I…don’t think so,” Kenjiro sighed. Reivyn appeared crestfallen.

    “<That was not a fun ride,>” Crescent groaned – bruises and scratches were visible on his tar-black fur.

    “Shoot,” Katrina muttered as she watched Crescent struggle to stay on his feet. She knew that she was running out of time.

    “Finish him off!” Brawly yelled. “Arm Thrust! GO!”

    Makuhita took off running at Crescent again. This time, the black Moonlight Pokémon was ready. Makuhita swung and missed with one of his large, yellow-and-black arms as Crescent jumped a safe distance away…

    “Crescent!!” Katrina shouted. “Hyper Beam!!”

    Crescent didn’t hesitate; gathering the energy necessary for the attack as quickly as possible, he fired the beam of pure Megacite energy at Makuhita. The Guts Pokémon, who was rendered unable to dodge by a combination of an excess of girth as well as a deficiency in speed, took the powerful energy blast dead in the stomach. Makuhita groaned in pain as the energy burned away at him and finally exploded in a spectacular detonation, blowing the hefty Fighting-type off his feet. He landed on his back, badly burned and damaged from the attack. Meanwhile, Crescent’s body crackled with energy as he fell to one knee, panting loudly. Seeing Makuhita’s lack of motion, the referee ran over to perform the count-out.

    “That’s smart,” Matthew commented as the referee, having reached ‘five’ in his count, ruled Makuhita unable to continue fighting, declaring Umbreon (that is, Crescent) the winner of the battle. “A lot of Trainers will go crazy once they get a Pokémon that knows Hyper Beam…”

    “Sorry, what was that?” Travis intoned mordantly, remembering a match he’d had with Matthew the summer before last. Matthew must have picked up on the hint, because he rolled his eyes and sighed. “Anyways, you said Makuhita was one of his ‘moneymakers’, right? Brawly’s only got one Pokémon left because this was a two-on-two battle. What could he possibly have up his sleeve that’s worse than Makuhita??”

    Matthew remained maddeningly silent. Either he didn’t know or he just wasn’t telling.
    On the other side of the arena, the lull between battles had resulted in yet another awkward silence between Kenjiro and Reivyn. However, this silence was different; it was as if each had something to say to the other, but the words were lost somewhere. All of a sudden, Kenjiro found his hand in another one – a hand that was pale, but warm. Kenjiro recoiled…

    Why? There was no reason. He knew how he felt about her, and he knew that he felt the same way. He had no reason to be afraid of being close to her – not after all this time.

    He relaxed and his fingers gripped her hand. She looked at him with her silver eyes. These orbs seemed to glow with hope as she smiled.

    Meanwhile, Katrina, having allowed Crescent to stay on the battlefield, waited for the next turn of developments.

    Brawly released his second Pokémon, invoking the name of “Meditite!!”

    The ball (one with green markings that set it apart as a Great Ball rather than a standard-issue Pokéball) opened to reveal a bipedal creature that was colored gray and light blue. A shrunken face sat in the middle of her gray, bulb-shaped head, and through slate-tinted eyes she stared at the Umbreon, her opponent, as she lowered herself into a fighting stance.

    “That…could be trouble,” Matt muttered, messing with his highlighted hair as he wore a look of apprehension on his face. Travis looked at him. “Meditite’s a half-Psychic-type that packs a serious punch – and I mean that literally.”

    “Fighting and Psychic-type?” Travis commented. “Never seen that before.”

    “Meditite are pretty hard to find, too,” Matt continued. “I wonder where he got his…?”

    “<Aw, man…I can’t get beat by a girl…not in front of mine, anyway,>” Crescent groaned distractedly, obviously fatigued from his last fight.

    “Angel, is something wrong?” Travis snapped out of his focus on the match to hear Mariah talking to Angel. This was a bit jarring at first, obviously, but then Travis quickly remembered Matthew telling him about Mariah’s aspiration to be a Breeder. He looked down at his Espeon.

    “Oh, yeah – your face is all red,” Travis commented.

    “<Oh, that’s…>” Angel gasped quickly, shaking her head. “<…Nothing.>”

    She continued to gaze down at the arena, where the fight was underway.

    “Open up with Meditate!!” Brawly shouted loudly. In contrast to the Gym Leader’s loud utterance, Meditite hummed, crossed her legs, and then sat down, all with her eyes closed. A faint, white glow began to emanate from her body. Moments later, she rose a foot or two off the ground.

    “Crescent, Quick Attack!!” Katrina cried. Crescent turned into an ebony shadow and catapaulted himself at his meditating opponent.

    “Dodge, Meditite!” Brawly yelled. “Double Team!”

    Crescent hit a clone, hit the ground shoulder-first, and rolled to his feet as he turned around.

    There were not two Meditite, not four…

    More than eight…

    “Sixteen of them,” Matt said in a low, incredulous voice.

    “That’s crazy!!” Travis groaned, hitting one of the armrests with his hand and creating a rather interesting THUMP. “How the hell’s Crescent supposed to find the real one?!”

    “Damn, you gotta tip your hat to that one,” Matt commented. “That’s a sick combination. I’m sure you see what he’s doing, being the expert and all. Right, Travis?”

    “Meditite’s still meditating,” Travis approached the words slowly so as to avoid being tongue-tied. “…She’s preparing for some sort of attack. Of course, if she gets hammered before she finishes, that’ll put Katrina and Crescent at an advantage…so Brawly had Meditite use Double Team in the hopes that, by the time Katrina and Crescent find the real one, it’ll be too late.”

    Crescent snarled as he attempted to tackle one of the dozen or so remaining Meditite around him. He hit a clone, which disappeared and caused Crescent to launch himself through the air wildly and crash rather nastily into the arena floor. He rolled to his feet again.

    “Damn!” Katrina swore. “Crescent, keep trying! Tackle!!”

    “Tch, no good,” Matt muttered as Crescent failed to connect once again. “At least she’s conserving energy. No use wasting it on big guns like Hyper Beam when you’re not sure you’re going to hit.”

    The Meditite clones (at this point, there were about nine of them left) stopped glowing.

    “Uh-oh…” Travis muttered.

    “You’re right, ‘uh-oh’,” Matt echoed.

    “Get him, Meditite!” Brawly shouted. From all possible directions came the Meditite doppelgangers, surrounding Crescent in an ever-narrowing ring of doom. Crescent dodged all manner of karate chops, punches and kicks by flying Meditite, who all disappeared behind him, indicating that none of the Pokémon – and therefore none of the attacks themselves – had been real. There was one still hanging in the air…

    “Shadow Ball!” Katrina shouted. The panting Umbreon battling for her opened his mouth and released a black-colored ball of shadow energy at Meditite, who crossed her arms and drove through the attack as it exploded around her, raising her fist to strike Crescent –

    But he was already gone.

    “Faint Attack!” Katrina yelled. Meditite turned around to her left and…

    BOOM.

    …was sent flying clear across the arena, a victim of a sneak attack by Crescent, who had used the explosion to escape seconds before Meditite could get there.

    Travis and Angel both breathed simultaneous sighs of relief while Matthew commented, “Looks like she’s still got a little bit of escape artist in her…”

    “Quick Attack, Crescent!” Katrina said. The black-furred creature took off, but not with the burst that he had been showing earlier in the battle. It was clear that he was on his last legs.

    “Hi Jump Kick,” Brawly replied. Meditite flung herself into a fighting stance and took off toward the center of the arena. Crescent and Meditite both approached each other, but Meditite was a beat faster. Just as Crescent leapt, Meditite drove a knee of cataclysmic proportions into the side of the Umbreon’s head, knocking him to the ground. In the stands, loud groans came from Travis, Matthew, and Mariah as Angel laid her head down on Travis’ lap dejectedly.

    “Umbreon is unable to battle! Meditite wins!!” the referee announced roughly seven seconds after Crescent hit the ground. Sighing, Katrina opened her Pokéball and used a return-and-release maneuver that allowed her Umbreon to rest peacefully at her ankles.

    “Man, what’s she got now?” Matt muttered. “Wasn’t Crescent her strongest Pokémon?”

    “Well, he’s been with her the longest,” Travis said. “But that’s a good question – how’s she going to battle Meditite?”

    They got their answer in the form of a small, russet, rodent-like creature with a tail of crackling, golden flames.

    “She’s using Amber?” Travis muttered to himself.

    “What’s that Pokémon?” Matt asked, having never seen one of this species before.

    “A Pyrika,” Travis replied. “Fire-type.”

    “Well, yeah, you’d think,” Matt said, showing his Pokédex and indicating the flaming tail on the display.

    “<OWWW!>” Amber whined, pacing in front of Katrina as she stretched herself out every few steps. “<Everything’s stiff! Why don’t you let me out every once in a while, huh?>”

    “Sorry,” Katrina muttered.

    “Are we gonna get this party started or what?!” Brawly shouted from the other side of the field.

    “Fine, then,” Katrina replied loudly. “Amber, use Fireworks!!”

    Amber stretched one final time, turned toward Meditite, and released a golden jet of flame that traversed the arena like a missile. Meditite glowed again and split into several copies of herself.

    “Not this again!” Travis groaned, slapping his head.

    “Maybe she’s found a way to beat it this time,” Matt commented.

    “Amber!!” Katrina shouted. “Use Smokescreen!”

    Amber inhaled, then exhaled – soon a cloud of black dust filled the arena and surrounded the Meditite clones, who had all of their eyes closed and were hovering off the ground.

    “Quick Attack, all the way around!!” Katrina ordered. Amber shot to the outside of the ring, then began running around in a circle.

    One clone disappeared…

    Two clones…

    Three clones, four…

    Five clones, six clones…

    Seven clones…

    WHAM!! Nearly having done a full lap around the Smokescreen, the Pyrika hit Meditite and sent her flying. She was knocked back through the thinning cloud of smoke and soot and returned to her sender, Brawly, who was standing in his box with a rather surprised look on his face.

    “Whoa…hi, there,” he said rather dimly as Meditite landed in front of him in a sitting position. Shooting her Trainer a look that just screamed ‘******’, she folded her arms and turned around, re-stancing herself.

    “She saw the weakness,” Matt commented. Travis raised an eyebrow and then the light turned on.

    “Oh! That’s right – Meditite can’t move while meditating,” Travis said.

    “<Ooh, weird,>” Amber squealed. “<My body feels all tingly and stuff.>”

    “Calm down,” Katrina advised.

    “<Hehe, it tickles…>” Amber giggled. A large sweatdrop appeared by Katrina’s head as she shook it hopelessly.

    “Meditite, use Hi Jump Kick!!” Brawly ordered. Meditite took three huge steps and a leap, aiming her knee at Amber’s head.

    “Smokescreen, then dodge the attack!” Katrina shouted. Amber inhaled and spit a Smokescreen directly in front of her, rolling out of the way seconds before Meditite (her eyes closed and unable to see now) broke through it and crashed spectacularly into the ground knees-first.

    “<Whoopsy, too slow!>” Amber teased as Meditite emerged from the cloud of smoke and dust, her foot aimed right at Amber’s head and glowing a bright white.

    “Mega Kick!!” Brawly shouted. With a hefty sound of impact, Meditite delivered a devastating roundhouse to Amber’s head, knocking her sideways. The small Pyrika went flying through the air before hitting the ground and rolling to her feet, shaking her head.

    “<Wow…I think, like, my entire body’s trying to fall asleep…>” she muttered.

    “Amber, snap out of it!! HEADS UP!!” Katrina yelled. Amber looked up at the last second and removed herself from harm’s way just in time, resulting in Meditite slamming into the ground again.

    “Ouch…” Travis muttered sympathetically, wincing.

    “Yeah, Hi Jump Kick’s a great attack, but if you abuse it and miss, your Pokémon’s in for one ***** of a landing,” Matt explained as Meditite got up, favoring her knee. “Oh, that was really boneheaded. Now Brawly’s gone and gotten Meditite injured. Maybe Katrina can take advantage here.”

    “Slam, Amber!!” Katrina yelled. Amber charged Meditite, who was unable to dodge because of her injured knee. Amber leapt into the air and came down on top of Meditite hard, immediately rolling off and to her feet as Meditite hit the ground with a thundering crash.

    “She got him!!” Travis yelled, pumping his fist as the other two cheered.

    Meditite lay spread-eagled on the ground, motionless as Amber, panting hard and looking suddenly unwell, stayed where she was. The referee ran over to do the five-count.

    “One…two…three…four…”

    All of Katrina’s friends in the stands held their breath.

    “Five! Meditite is unable to battle! The winner is Pyr—huh?”

    “<The light’s soooo pretty,>” Amber looked down at her own body and saw that she was glowing a bright white. Her frame grew to nearly twice its original size and, when it faded, a different creature altogether stood before them. She now stood more than three and a half feet off the ground, and her brown fur had gone a sort of vermilion color. A yellow flame marking stood out on her belly, and other flame-colored markings were also visible on her body. Her tail had elongated to a length reminiscent of the tail of a Raichu, and still had a burning flame on its end that resembled that of a Charmander.

    “The winner is…what’s that?” the referee turned to Brawly, who, grimacing, told him. “Okay – the winner of the battle is Marhot!!”


    Grinning broadly, Katrina showed her friends a badge that resembled a fist in the third slot, next in line after her previously-acquired Astralbadge and Stonebadge. While Matthew and Mariah admired the new badge from in front of Katrina, Travis looked over her shoulder.

    “It’s so pretty,” he mocked in a voice like that of a four-year-old. “I want one!!”

    “Get your own,” Katrina quipped, snapping the badge case shut.

    “Fine,” Travis said, his voice returning to normal. Katrina turned around and smiled. Travis said seriously, “That was a great battle.”

    “Thanks,” she replied, a finger in her rose-colored hair. The two hugged and kissed.

    Angel paced around the locker room until she found Crescent, sitting in a corner and looking very dejected. She began to traipse over to him but quickly slowed down once she got a look at his face. A bit nervously, she lowered her head to get a better look into Crescent’s eyes.

    “<Hey,>” she said in the sweetest, breathiest voice possible.

    “<Hey, Angel,>” Crescent responded with a mournful, deadpan voice that was depressing just to listen to.

    “<So…congratulations?>” Angel said with an inflection in her voice that clearly indicated that she wasn’t sure if she’d said the right thing.

    “<Oh…yeah, thanks,>” Crescent muttered rather distractedly.

    “<What’s wrong?>” Angel asked, sitting next to him.

    “<Nothing,>” Crescent said quickly. He gasped as he felt the Espeon’s neck rubbing against his.

    “<You’re a horrible liar, you know,>” Angel remarked, nuzzling him. “<You can’t hide anything from me.>”

    Crescent smiled bitterly.

    “<I just thought it’d be cool if I could beat both of them on my own,>” he commented. “<You know…make her look like a genius, impress you…>”

    “<Impress me?>” Angel repeated, taken aback.

    “<It feels great that you ask me for advice sometimes, but…at the same time, you always outdo me,>” Crescent sighed.

    “<Since when has this been a competition?>” Angel answered.

    “<Since always!>” Crescent shouted. “<Since the day I met you. If I’m weak, I won’t be good enough for you.>”

    Angel smiled.

    “<You’re so silly,>” she laughed. “<Why would you think something like that?>”

    “<I don’t know, I just…>” Crescent muttered.

    “<Hey,>” Angel said sweetly, nuzzling up to Crescent again. “<You don’t have to do anything special to get my attention. You just have to be…sweet, caring…everything you always are. That’s good enough for me.>”

    Meanwhile, Travis and the others were discussing his own upcoming match. Looking at the PokéNav-X, he saw that the time was 10:36. His match was more than three hours from now, which meant that he had plenty of time – maybe too much time – to think about it.

    “So,” Katrina asked, leaning over his shoulder to get a better view of the PokéNav-X. “You figured out how you’re going to beat Brawly?”

    “Well, Angel’s a Psychic-type – that’ll give me a little bit of an advantage,” Travis answered. “Other than that, it’ll probably be a slugfest.”

    “True,” Matt muttered, walking past them with his chin in his hand. “There’s just one problem. You’re up against Fighting-types. It’s pretty damn hard to outslug Fighting-types. Especially that Meditite – if Brawly had battled smarter, Katrina, you’d have been knee-deep in it.”

    Katrina frowned but made a conceding facial expression.

    “Yeah, you’re right,” Travis sighed morosely. “I’ve only got three Pokémon to work with, and I can only use two…”

    “Pack in a few surprises, then,” Matt said, gesturing with the hand that he had taken off his chin. “I know a little shop down on the beach that sells some pretty interesting stuff.”

    “You mean, like, ‘TM’ interesting?” Katrina asked the same thing Travis had been thinking.

    “Somethin’ like that,” Matt replied, smirking.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  16. #166
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    May 2005
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    Maryland
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    Default Chapter 17-2

    ~~~ *** ~~~

    Hand in hand, Kenjiro and Reivyn walked down the main road of Dewford Town, between the rows of buildings until they finally arrived at the boardwalk. They spent many of their moments in silence, not really knowing what to say to each other. This felt like such new territory for both of them. It seemed that, of the two things that they had in common, both had to do with the Shoryuu Temple, for neither one fit in there because neither one believed the Temple’s doctrines, and both escaped – and when fate saw fit to unite them, they came together.

    They looked down at the families playing on the beach in this noonday sun. It was quite warm, and outside of the shade the sun was a bit merciless. Here in this breezeway, however, things were comfortable. They both leaned over the railing together, listening to the cries of Wingull and the gleeful shouts of frolicking children. Wordlessly, they pondered this scene of a normal summer day in the normal lives of normal people. Separately yet together, they wondered about their existence.

    “Kenji,” Reivyn said calmly without looking at him. Her voice was slightly more serious and difficult to read. “Why do you think we exist?”

    “To inhabit the planet and provide a counterpart to Pokémon – why else?” Kenjiro answered.

    “No, I mean…the two of us,” Reivyn said. Kenjiro looked at her, slightly shocked. It seemed that a very strange thing had happened in the several weeks that had passed since the two met. Being with Kenjiro seemed to unlock something in her. Her curiosity was still there, only it had developed into something deeper and more mature. “Where do we fit in with the world? Will we…change it somehow? Everyone that’s ever born makes some kind of impact on someone, don’t they?”

    The more Kenjiro thought about it, the more he realized that Reivyn was right. After all, meeting her had turned his life upside-down, inside-out, and any other direction you’d want to describe it.

    And he had made an impact on many lives…in most cases, by ending them.

    “Reivyn…” Kenjiro finally sighed. “I don’t know. I’m not even sure we fit into this world at all.”

    “We’re human, aren’t we?” Reivyn replied. “So we must have a place somewhere…”

    “It feels better to think so, anyway,” Kenjiro commented. “Even if your purpose is something as monstrous as revenge…it feels better to think that you’re alive for something.”

    “What if…it’s all finished?” Reivyn asked. Kenjiro looked at her, confused. “I mean…what if you get your revenge? What then?”

    “What then?” Kenjiro repeated bitterly. “I guess I just live the rest of my days as a wanderer. Maybe I’ll be like Hong Liu and settle down somewhere far away from society.”

    “What’s the use in that?” Reivyn asked, sounding almost angry. “Don’t you want to do anything with your life other than kill and then rot away?”

    He reached his hand up for Reivyn’s face. Realizing what he was doing, he dropped it at his side. She looked at him questioningly as he let out a bitter laugh.

    “I hope you realize,” he said without looking at her, “that we can’t really be together.”

    Reivyn gasped in shock and, for once, raised her voice.

    “What do you mean by –”

    “These hands aren’t fit to hold anyone, Reivyn,” Kenjiro answered, a sickening, mournful smile on his face. “They’re vengeful…stained by too much blood. I even tried to kill you because I hate the Temple that much. Do you really want these hands? No…I don’t deserve this…and you deserve something much better than a monster like me.”

    “Kenji…” Reivyn quieted instantly.

    “I shouldn’t be alive…part of me wishes I had died down there,” Kenjiro said. “Sacrificing your life for someone else is a pretty heavy weight on a scale of good and evil.”

    “I’d be alone,” Reivyn answered simply and blankly.

    “You’d have survived,” Kenjiro said. “You’re smart, strong…you knew everything I didn’t…”

    “I wouldn’t have wanted to,” Reivyn replied – again, a laconic answer that got Kenjiro’s attention.

    “You have a stronger will to live than I do,” Kenjiro conceded.

    “Kenji…” Reivyn sighed as she stepped in close to him, guiding his arms around her back and looking up at him slightly. “What if I said that I wanted us to be together?”

    “I’d say that you were a fool for wanting to be with someone like me,” Kenji answered, looking down into her hopeful, silver eyes.

    “Call me a fool if you want to,” Reivyn said with a sort of defiance. “Love wouldn’t be love if you always deserved it.”

    “So you’re a wise fool,” Kenjiro answered.

    “I can live with that,” Reivyn said, standing upon her tiptoes slightly until she and the young man were eye-to-eye and face-to-face. Seconds later, she set her heels back on the ground and walked to the right down the ramp. Meanwhile, Kenjiro paused for a moment, one hand over his chest, which felt that it was going to explode because his heart was beating so fast, and the other tracing the lips that the beautiful being dancing away from him had just kissed. She beckoned to him to follow. She was barefoot.

    Slowly, Kenjiro kicked off both shoes. He stepped gingerly down the ramp until his feet hit the sand and felt its heat. Nervously, he looked up at Reivyn, who just smiled.


    With a new arsenal of knowledge, among other things, Travis entered the stadium to a round of polite applause. Angel trailed at his ankle, her forked, lilac tail swishing back and forth behind her.

    Nearly a month ago, Travis had arrived in Hoenn. Leaving from Littleroot Town, Travis journeyed through Western Hoenn and, through many struggles, won one badge…

    …and then a second.

    Now he was here, standing before Brawly, the Gym Leader of Dewford Town. The mid-twenties (as Travis had confirmed that afternoon) surfing aficionado was a crowd favorite. A few years past, he used to be considered the weakest of the Gym Leaders (although he was placed second in the order behind Roxanne prior to Stella’s hiring last year). He had natural talent, but his laid-back personality and lack of strategy made him rather beatable among the ranks of Hoenn Gym Leaders. Fortunately (for himself, anyway) he had honed his mind through surfing and meditation and had obtained, according to a profile of him, a “near Zen-like mental state.”

    Well…Zen or no Zen, Travis was going to beat Brawly…

    “You and that pain-in-the-neck Meditite,” he muttered to himself.

    Brawly’s eyes locked on Travis – Brawly chose his Pokémon first.

    “Let’s go, MACHOP!!” he shouted. As soon as the ball hit the ground, a bipedal creature just over two and a half feet in height appeared. He was gray and a green triple crest bisecting the top of his head. Although he was small, he had a physique that many teenage boys and young men would kill for. He seemed to have the right amount of muscle in all the right places. He looked strong, yet not bulky like many bodybuilders. He pulled his right side back into a fighting stance, showing many white teeth as he growled at the opposing Trainer.

    “Alright – Meru or Champ, let’s see…” Travis muttered to himself. In a way, this was a great problem to have – two Pokémon that were both strong and had competitive spirits. However, one was versatile enough to attack from long range.

    He called on his Kitide, which burst forth from her Pokéball in a flash of white. Probably as a result of the events of the last two days, she looked very strong and confident.

    “A Kitide? That’s interesting,” Brawly muttered. “Okay, you picked second – your move!”

    Travis raised his eyebrows.

    “Fine – got an umbrella ready?” he asked.

    “Umbrella?” Brawly repeated.

    “Rain Dance, Meru!!” Travis shouted. Meru swayed from side to side for several moments. Low clouds began to appear above the stadium, blocking out the sky and prompting the lights to shut on. Brawly looked in the air, shocked as one drop fell and hit him between the eyes…

    Then another drop. Travis smiled.

    WHOOSH.

    As if the windows of Heaven themselves had been opened, a torrent fell upon the stadium, prompting many who were not under cover to seek it quickly. Many of the townspeople, though, who sat in open-air seats, usually brought umbrellas – for the summer sun, ironically. These objects merely changed function as the rain began to pour down.

    Within thirty seconds, Travis was as soaked as if someone had just dunked him into the Zephyr Sea, the body of water they had crossed days ago to get here. His cobalt hair was limp and water was dripping down his face, yet he was smiling; this was exactly what he had wanted.

    “Good job, Meru,” he said with a smile to his Kitide. “You’re a natural.”

    “<This feels great!>” the Cub Pokémon exclaimed joyfully. “<I get so dehydrated traveling around all the time.>”

    “That’s it?” Brawly said. “Dude, my Pokémon and I surf together all the time! You think we’re afraid of a little rain??”

    “You will be, Slater, you will be,” Travis replied confidently, using Brawly’s proper last name. He had found out in the bio that Brawly’s birth name was Tai-Quan Slater. He used to go by ‘Tai’ as a child and teenager growing up in Dewford, but wanted to choose a nickname that was ‘more intimidating’ when he became a Gym Leader.

    “We’ll just see about that,” Brawly replied. “Machop, use Karate Chop!!”

    The gray Superpower Pokémon lowered himself into a stance and began to tear through the driving rain, his front hand straight and still like the blade of a knife. Meru crouched low as she watched Machop approach her and waited for an order.

    “Meru, use Acid Armor!!” Travis shouted. Machop swung his hand through where Meru had just been as she disappeared.

    “What the –” Brawly grunted.

    “Water Gun, Meru!!” Travis called. Machop turned to his left…

    WHAM.

    He was hit hard by a jet of water and sent into a barrel roll. As the wave washing over him broke, he groaned and hit the ground on his back, springing to his feet almost immediately and looking around in an attempt to locate his attacker.

    “Close your eyes, Machop! Hear her!” Brawly shouted. Machop did so, closing his eyes. He gave a slight grunt of recognition as he found her. “Karate Chop!”

    Machop took extremely quick steps and opened his eyes just as Meru skidded to a stop in front of him. Machop connected with the outer edge of his hand, causing Meru to stop short and groan in pain. She snarled and leapt at Machop, but the small, gray Fighting-type was too quick. He grabbed the Kitide in midair and flipped her. Meru crashed into the ground, kicking up a spray of water as she hydroplaned across the arena floor in rather painful fashion. Meru rolled to her feet only to see Machop advancing upon her a second time. He raised his hand and attempted to bring it down onto her head, but she jumped left and rammed him, sending him backward a bit. Machop re-stanced himself and drove a nasty palm into Meru’s face, knocking her backward. The Superpower Pokémon went on the offensive, aiming a barrage of blows at the vulpine Water-type. Suddenly, Meru heard her Trainer call out an order:

    “Meru, use Bite!!” Travis shouted. Meru responded at once, sinking her teeth into the right wrist of Machop, who had tried to punch her. The small Fighting-type gave a yelp of pain as Meru swung him by his arm and launched him across the field. Thunder reverberated through the stadium as Machop righted himself in midair and, through a series of backflips, landed on his feet on Brawly’s side of the field. Machop’s eyes found Meru, who spat disdainfully on the ground.

    “<Too ugly for my taste,>” she quipped.

    “Time to finish him – Acid Armor, Meru,” Travis said. Meru crouched low, then disappeared into the mist and rain.

    “Damn! Not again!!” Brawly groaned. Travis mouthed another order that Brawly didn’t see, but Meru heard it loud and clear. Machop, favoring the wound on his right wrist, was left in the center of the rain-drenched arena, his eyes darting from right to left in an attempt to locate the Kitide who seemed to have blended in with the watery ambience around her. Machop saw a watery blur pass by him and dodged it. He was bowled over by another blur, however, and hit the ground hard. “Machop, come on!!”

    The rain began to let up as Machop rose to his feet. The skies cleared, revealing the natural, sunny Dewford Sky. Machop rose, his hand now over his entire arm.

    “Great – now we can…oh, sh—” Brawly nearly yelled a swearword when he saw what had transpired. No less than seven Kitide stood around Machop, all poised to attack. Travis smirked. “Who…what…”

    Travis let out a slight laugh. His hair and clothes were absolutely dripping.

    “That was fun,” he panted. “TAKE HIM DOWN!!”

    One by one, each clone of Meru began to rush Brawly’s Machop. Machop used Karate Chop to defend himself from one, obliterating her, then dodged another, stomping on her head and missing as this one was nothing more than an illusion. Bobbing and weaving, Machop dodged four more attacking Kitide, the last of these evasions causing him to whirl around. Once the threat had passed over, Machop stood in the center, panting loudly. Brawly let out a loud cry.

    “MACHOP!” he shouted. “BEHIND YOU!!”

    Machop whirled around slowly…

    The crack of a high-pressure jet of water making contact with Machop’s body could be heard in the cheap seats; a couple of people down on the beach a couple of miles away might have just stopped what they were doing and turned around.

    Needless to say, after taking a direct hit from one of the most devastating Water Gun attacks ever witnessed by man, Machop’s energy was utterly spent. The gray Fighting machine’s gears stopped working, so to speak, and he fell to the ground, utterly knocked out.

    The referee did the five-count knowing that there was really no need.

    Brawly returned his Pokémon. Smiling confidently, Travis taunted, “I bet that combination looks familiar.”


    Meanwhile, Matt, Mariah, and Katrina were staring at Travis in awe. Matt leaned back in his chair, closing his mouth, which had been open for the last few seconds.

    “What? You’ve gotta be kidding me,” he groaned, again messing with his blondish-brown hair. Turning to Katrina, he said, “It’s one thing to remember what Brawly did in a previous battle – but to duplicate it and then use it against him…that’s just crazy.”

    “That looked kind of like a modified version of the combination that Brawly used on me this morning,” Katrina remarked.

    “Yeah…now he’s gotta deal with that you-know-what, though,” Matt muttered. “I’ll bet he has a plan already.”

    “I doubt it,” Mariah said suddenly. Matt gave her an expression that can be summed up in the letters ‘W’, ‘T’, and ‘F’.

    “What do you mean, you ‘doubt it’?” he asked.

    “If you got a good look at her…” Mariah said cryptically, raising her eyebrow. Matt had a clueless look on his face. “Breeders are able to tell when it’s about time.”

    Matt gasped. Katrina read Matt’s facial expression and uttered a stifled cry as she looked down at the arena.

    Brawly pulled a Pokéball from his belt. “You’re as good as everyone’s saying.”

    “Who’s ‘everyone’?” Travis asked, wondering how his reputation could have spread as far as Hoenn.

    “This isn’t a big place, dude,” Brawly explained, tossing the Pokéball from his hand and catching it repeatedly as he spoke. “If one person knows about it, you can guarantee that by the end of the day the whole town will know about it. I heard it first. You were in the crowd right about there…”

    Brawly pointed, nearly to the exact spot where Travis had sat several hours ago…

    “…watching me battle your girl,” Brawly continued. “With as many people that watched the little Open Tourney I threw from behind the scenes yesterday…”

    “I figured it was something like that,” said Travis drily.

    “…every grommet in Dewford knows about you,” Brawly said. “I like your style. You’ll go far – one day.”

    Something flashed in Travis’ eyes, and his demeanor instantly changed.

    “I really don’t like people telling me that,” he said, a slightly unsettled smile crossing his lips as if they were a dam trying to hold back a rushing tidal wave of anger. “ ‘One day’ doesn’t cut it for me.”

    “You think it’s today, then?” Brawly asked. “Do you think you’re ‘destined’ to become the new Champion this year?”

    “Why don’t we finish this off? Then, you can answer that question yourself,” Travis replied aggressively.

    “Fine with me – just remember, you dug your own grave,” Brawly replied cryptically. Throwing a Great Ball into the air (Travis remembered the ball instantly and knew what it most likely meant), he shouted, “GO!!”

    Travis was thrown off as soon as the light began to materialize on the ground. He knew that everything looked smaller from where he had been sitting a few hours prior, but there was no way that this particular Pokémon was ever that tall. And she sure wasn’t that pink. She still looked a bit like a Meditite, he guessed…just a longer, lankier, pinker version…with stronger legs.

    “Meet Medicham,” Brawly said dramatically.

    “Hold on – you don’t mean –” Travis started to yell.

    “Yeah,” Brawly interrupted quickly, cocking his head.

    “Oh,” Travis said, standing up straight and sounding very put out. “That’s…irritating.”

    “Open up with a Mega Punch, Medicham!!” Brawly shouted, pumping his fist. Medicham’s hands began to glow white as she took off toward Meru, who crouched low and stared. Medicham leapt high into the air and let out a shrill cry as she aimed a fist at the Kitide.

    “Quick Attack!!” Travis shouted. Meru disappeared right as Medicham got there. Medicham immediately looked to her left and parried an advancing Meru, leaving the aqua-colored Water-type hanging in the air. Medicham parried the attack and knocked Meru away from her. The Kitide went sailing through the air and hit the ground with a loud thud, rolling to her feet and careening a bit on the floor, which was still slick with rain from the previous battle.

    “Confusion!!” Brawly yelled. Medicham thrust her hands forward. A second later, Meru went airborne, the victim of an invisible wave of Psychic energy.

    “<Crap…>” Meru groaned, staggering to her feet.

    “Double Team!!” Travis ordered. Meru split into several copies of herself and surrounded Medicham. Brawly smirked.

    “You shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “Medicham, use Thunder Punch!!”

    “Thunder Punch??” Travis repeated. Medicham raised a crackling fist…

    …and drove it straight into the ground.

    Lightning traveled in eight different directions from Medicham’s hand and all nine of Meru’s clones screamed in unison as they were engulfed in electricity. Eight of them disappeared entirely, leaving only the real Meru, who toppled over, smoking horribly and groaning weakly.

    “Turnabout’s fair play, dude,” Brawly said five seconds later after Travis returned Meru to her ball and gave the blue-haired Gym Leader a dirty look.

    Travis couldn’t afford to lose. Any further setbacks for him at this point were intolerable. Losing this match would not only hurt his ranking, but it would set him back several days when he could be leaving the island…as much as he hated to – this was a great place to be. Matthew had already said that the next charter ferry was leaving tomorrow morning. They only came three times every two weeks, on top of that. Granted, part of him would love to stick around in Dewford – it’d been the only place where he hadn’t had to fight anyone and just being here was relaxing – but he was on a mission, and he could not ignore it.

    He could not fail.

    Almost before he could ask her, Angel was out on the battlefield and staring down Medicham, who crouched down to the ground in an attempt to look intimidating. There was a second’s lull before the action…

    “Go, Medicham!!” Brawly yelled. “Use Shadow Ball!!”

    “Shadow Ball?!” Travis repeated. “When the hell did Medicham learn Shadow Ball?! Angel, dodge and use Swift!!”

    A ball of crackling black energy bulleted past Angel, missing her head by mere inches as she ducked away from it. From the gem on Angel’s head came star-shaped beams that shot at Medicham, hitting her full in the face and knocking her backward as they let off small explosions. Angel turned the corner and began to tear across the arena toward Medicham, who was temporarily blinded by the Swift attack blowing up in her eye. Angel leapt, glowing a bright purple hue and slamming powerfully into Medicham, knocking her on her back and quickly rolling off her. Medicham sprung back to her feet immediately and attempted to aim a sweep kick at Angel, who took it in the torso and went flying. She crashed in spectacular fashion, rolling and flailing across the arena back to Travis’ feet. She stood and bruises were visible in many places on her body.

    “Damn!” Travis groaned.

    “Use Thunder Punch!!” Brawly shouted. Medicham, her fist crackling with lightning, rushed the length of the field.

    “Confusion!!” Travis countered. Angel’s eyes began to shine with a bright, white light, and Medicham was stopped in midair as if she’d hit some sort of force field. The pink powerhouse let out a short squeal. She missed as Angel rolled out of the way. Medicham opened her hand against the ground and used it to spring into a flip that put her back on her feet.

    “Hi Jump Kick!!” Brawly shouted. Medicham, using her powerful, new legs, leapt high into the air, aiming one of her knees down at Angel’s head. Unfortunately, Angel couldn’t dodge in time. Using her free foot, Medicham stomped Angel into the ground as she used the Espeon’s body as a springboard. Angel rose to her feet, groaning slightly. Brawly smirked. He was sure he had this match won. “Use Shadow Ball!!!”

    “Psybeam!!!” Travis shouted immediately. Both Pokémon conjured their attacks and fired.

    A prism of light met a globe of darkness and the two attacks struggled in the middle of the arena for a while. With a loud crackling sound, they canceled each other out.

    “Medicham! Show ‘em your Mega Punch!!” Medicham took off running, her fists glowing white as she reached the Pokéball-shaped symbol in the center of the arena.

    “Charging right in like that? Finish him,” Travis called, his patience at an end. “Use Psybeam.”

    Angel began to glow and the beam formed at the top of her forehead. Medicham was now halfway across, still coming. Travis spoke to Angel’s mind and she stopped glowing. All that was left was a small point of light reflected from the gem on her forehead.

    “Giving up?” Brawly laughed. “Drop the hammer on ‘em! MEGA PUNCH!”

    “3…2…1…” Travis muttered to himself.

    <NOW!>

    “FIRE!!” Travis shouted. The split-second it took Medicham to make contact with Angel’s head wasn’t enough time – the Fighting-type was engulfed in a beam of spectral light. As she disappeared in the ray of Psychic energy, she let out a squeal of pain.

    There was a bright flash that caused Travis to squint for a few moments. When it died down, he gazed across the field and saw Medicham, her arms crossed over her thin body in a defensive position. She was bruised in every place imaginable and smoke was even wafting from her body in copious amounts…but she was still standing.

    She looked up, uncrossing her arms and staring at Travis and Angel with fire in her eyes…

    Then, in a heap, she fell forward to the ground.


    Ten minutes later, Travis and the others were on their way back to the Pokémon Center, admiring his shiny, new Knucklebadge – his third badge here in Hoenn.

    “Well, that nice bit of business is over and done with,” Matt commented, his hands behind his head. “Wanna hit the beach now we’ve got nothing better to do? It’s, like, 3:00.”

    “Mmm…” Travis looked at Katrina. “Our stuff’s still back at the room.”

    “Of course we’re stopping,” Matt said, looking at Mariah. “This wasn’t exactly planned, was it? Nobody has their stuff.”

    “Yeah…don’t you just love spur-of-the-moment?” Travis asked, smirking.

    Katrina and Mariah laughed.


    Travis (his swimming trunks on) walked back around the corner very quickly – it was nearly 3:30, the time that he and Katrina had agreed to meet Matt and Mariah down at the food court. Katrina was coming toward him and the two nearly bumped into each other.

    “Oh!” she shouted. She was wearing a jean jacket and a short jean skirt over her red bikini, as well as red sandals. Furthermore (Travis felt a pang of guilt), she was carrying a parasol and a picnic basket. “Sorry.”

    “Are we ready?” Travis asked, taking the basket and parasol from her.

    “Yeah,” Katrina nodded. Angel and Crescent appeared at her ankles, the former looking very pleased with herself as the latter looked distracted and even crestfallen.

    “Let’s go, then,” Travis said with a smile. He turned around and began to lead the group down the hall. Coming the other way were a young man and woman that appeared to be in their later teens. They were walking closely together, almost as if a moment’s separation would be tantamount to an eternity of pain. The young man was wearing an outfit that was very familiar, but the young woman, who had a head of scarlet hair with a touch of silver-white up near her forehead, was wearing a sort of tunic that Travis didn’t recognize. Katrina stopped and tilted her head.

    “Kenjiro? Reivyn?” she asked. “We haven’t seen you in two days.”

    “We’ve all got business to accomplish, so it’s best we just stay out of each other’s way, right?” Kenjiro responded.

    “Business?” Travis repeated, sounding suspicious. “What kind of business?”

    “Well…the usual,” Kenjiro said. Then, dropping his voice to a mutter that only Reivyn could hear, he quipped, “Covert missions…Imperial soldiers…near-death experiences…”

    Reivyn giggled. Katrina noticed a subtle movement of Kenjiro’s hands, pulling Reivyn just a bit closer to him. She also noticed that the older girl was blushing just a bit.

    “Business, huh?” Travis said, walking toward and then past Kenjiro, then stopping with his back turned. “How many people are dead as a result of your ‘business’?”

    “Don’t worry – only a couple of people tried to kill me this time,” Kenjiro said nonchalantly. “One of them damn near pulled it off, actually…”

    “Whatever,” Travis sighed. He looked down at Reivyn and noticed how tightly her arms were wrapped around Kenjiro, and vice versa. In an attempt to be somewhat diplomatic, he said (albeit with a bit of an edge in his voice), “It’s pretty obvious some people know and see stuff that I don’t.”

    Katrina eyed Travis and then looked at Kenjiro and Reivyn. The cobalt-haired boy shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

    “Anyway, ignorance is bliss sometimes, isn’t it?” he chuckled. “In case you forgot, we’re next door to you – if you can keep an eye on that room every so often and make sure no one tries to steal my stuff, it’d be really nice. I don’t feel like carrying the sword around today, so if someone were to try to take it off my hands, we’d be in a little bit of trouble.”

    “Do I look like your guard dog?” Kenjiro asked.

    “You don’t want me to answer that question,” Travis answered sardonically.

    “When are you two just going to get along??” Katrina asked, her patience finally at an end.

    “When Kenjiro stops being a two-faced ******* and preying on innocent girls,” Travis said.

    “I’m not preying on anyone!” Kenjiro exclaimed, walking toward Travis angrily.

    “QUIET!” a yell from a fourth person was literally the shout to end all shouts. Reivyn stared at the other three as they turned around to stare at her. Her voice soft, but not tentative, she said, “I can speak for myself.”

    She walked over to Kenjiro and put his arms around him.

    “We were attacked yesterday. Kenji was willing to give up his life to save me,” she said. “No one told him to do it, and he didn’t think. Even if it was for that one second…he forgot about how he wanted to live to avenge his brother.”

    She looked up at him, and then at Travis.

    “I love him,” she said simply. Travis looked awestruck for a couple of seconds.

    “Let’s go,” he said to Katrina, who quickly followed him with her arms folded.

    “What’s your issue with him?!” Katrina asked loudly as they walked down the hall, Travis several steps in front.

    “He gets under my skin for some reason,” Travis replied. “…and I still don’t believe him.”

    “What has he done to you?” Katrina asked, stopping. Travis turned around. “He couldn’t have done anything bad enough to deserve the way you treat him.”

    “Stop defending him like he’s some scared, little five-year-old, Katrina,” Travis said sharply, his temper rising exponentially. “The S.O.B. enjoys killing for kicks and giggles. You tell me how the hell I’m supposed to get along with someone like that.”

    “How do you know he enjoys killing for kicks and giggles?” Katrina asked. “You don’t know what he’s like.”

    “He does all his stuff in secret – that’s enough to show me,” Travis sighed.

    “You ever stop to think he might be a victim – just like you?” Katrina asked.

    “Don’t compare me to him,” Travis said in a dangerously low voice. “Why the hell are we arguing over this *******, anyway?”

    “Because you’re not giving him a fair chance,” Katrina said calmly.

    “Well, you know what?” Travis snarled. “I’m doing what he asked me to do. Three badges – three! And in three months, I’ll be Champion, and I won’t have to worry about him!”

    “You’re missing the entire point,” Katrina groaned. “This journey wasn’t about just becoming Champion – it was about getting yourself back to feeling like a human being again…not some biological weapon stripped of all of his emotions and feelings.”

    Travis went silent. One could have heard a pin drop in the hallway, even with the carpeted floor – it was that quiet.

    “Maybe Kenjiro’s trying to become human, too,” Katrina said. “Did you ever think about that? If the one thing that can make that happen is caring about someone else, why stop it if you want him to change?”

    Travis sighed.

    “Stop asking me so many questions – you’re making me feel guilty,” he muttered. Katrina lowered her arms to her sides.

    “Glad I could be of assistance,” she said. “Let’s go – we’re already late.”

    And she led the way this time, followed by Angel and Crescent. Travis trailed behind all of them.

    She was absolutely right – she usually was. This was about more than becoming a Trainer again – he wanted to become himself again. A daunting goal, to say the least – if that’d been enough. He wanted to emerge as a better person than he had been before the war. Maybe then, he could say what he wanted to say to her…for now, though, he had to keep working. He had to continue to live in his day-to-day circumstances and yet rise above them. Becoming a Champion would be nice…but he wanted to be one that was worthy.

    A badge is an important milestone in the journey of a Trainer.

    Befriending an enemy is an important milestone in the journey of a man.

    Both of those had been done here on Dewford Island…but he still had five more badges to go – probably five hundred more lessons to learn on this journey.

    He wanted to get the badges…
    But more importantly, he wanted to learn all the lessons.

    “Travis! It’s 3:35!!” a yell snapped Travis out of his daydream. Katrina was halfway down the hall, beckoning to him.

    “<I think I see some of my fur starting to turn gray. Honesty, can you be any slower??>” Angel shouted. Travis made a quick decision, putting down the parasol and the picnic basket.

    “Give me a sec,” he called back, turning back toward where he knew Kenjiro and Reivyn’s room was. He put his hand on the knob, and turned it. Reivyn, on the top bunk on the right side of the room, saw him first and gasped. Kenjiro looked up soon afterward. “We made a deal last week.”

    Kenjiro eyed Travis for a moment.

    “Okay, but I warn you – it won’t be pretty,” Kenjiro said.

    “I didn’t figure it would,” Travis said seriously, closing the door.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  17. #167
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    Looks like more meaty chapterage to chew! Yummy...

    I'll get to it right away!

    I'm back! You were right, this is in a class of its own...47 pages, your record longest in histoire, EM!

    Let's cut to thhe chase before something goes wrong...

    Why? There was no reason. He knew how he felt about her, and he knew that he felt the same way.
    I have a funny feeling that this sentence goes like this...

    Why? There was no reason. He knew how he felt about her, and he knew that she felt the same way.

    ebony shadow and catapaulted himself
    That’s catapulted

    “<The light’s soooo pretty,>” Amber looked down at her own body and saw that she was glowing a bright white. Her frame grew to nearly twice its original size and, when it faded, a different creature altogether stood before them. She now stood more than three and a half feet off the ground, and her brown fur had gone a sort of vermilion color. A yellow flame marking stood out on her belly, and other flame-colored markings were also visible on her body. Her tail had elongated to a length reminiscent of the tail of a Raichu, and still had a burning flame on its end that resembled that of a Charmander.
    LOL for randomness! and W00T for Amber's evolution!

    “It’s so pretty,” he mocked in a voice like that of a four-year-old. “I want one!!”

    “Get your own,” Katrina quipped, snapping the badge case shut.

    “Fine,” Travis said, his voice returning to normal. Katrina turned around and smiled. Travis said seriously, “That was a great battle.”
    LOL all over again!

    “ ‘One day’ doesn’t cut it for me.”
    “‘One day’ doesn’t cut it for me.”

    Angel turned the corner and began to tear across the arena toward Medicham, who was temporarily blinded by the Swift attack blowing up in her eye. Angel leapt, glowing a bright purple hue and slamming powerfully into Medicham, knocking her on her back and quickly rolling off her.
    Alright! Slipstream returns!

    Luvverly battles, mate! jus luvverly!

    Could Travis be slowly warming up to Kenjiro? and what of ElrikxIvanna? guess i gotta wait...

    L@er!
    Last edited by Air Dragon; 22nd September 2007 at 8:56 AM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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    Butt-ugly Banner by Me
    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  18. #168
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    Jul 2006
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    Geez, it's been what, the end of Pirate Passage since I've reviewed/showered this fic with praise? Curse chemistry class and Saber... :P

    Anyway,the first thing I must thank you for is not ending a chapter with Kenji's "death." Even though I knew he wasn't dead     Spoiler:- PRJ minor spoiler:
    it would've driven me crazier than the one when you let Katrina get kidnapped and didn't update for close to a month... Yeah, cliffhangers suck for the reader.

    Furthermore, we have sliced, blasted, speared, punched, burnt, arrowed, and drowned enemies enemies to death, but Reivyn killing by making someone's brain explode was the best yet. Kudos to your ingenuity!

    It is also nice to see that even after scripting an entire arc of blood-bathed pirating, you still have a knack for gym battles. Honestly, Meru melting into the rain only to reverse Brawly's strategy is something worthy of the Mozz, and something to add to any ASBer's playbook. Yes, I do take inspiration for the game from various fics.

    To cease my near-tomorrow rambling, I give you the standard "good work" and "keep it up" benedictions, goodnight all, -Oath

    EDIT "Huge o'tay!": JarJar, for those who didn't get the quote. Anyway, editing in a few questions and speculations.

    First, am I correct in assuming that you are going for a "two-part sequel" deal? To clarify, AP will finish up Travis and Katrina's storyline, with Travis (if his base is anything to go by) laid up as a result of the Flare Calibur and Katrina by his side for ever and ever. YoD will, in turn, bring Lucas, Lorca, Lance, some other random "L" Blackthorn, and Shiro's story to a close, with Lucas as the star just because he's a cute little kid that didn't get any screentime in PRJ. Lucas rules, though, so go you. :P

    Also, I've been thinking of ways to make my bland posts more lively. Sure they give EM1 the moral support I think/hope he needs with their excessive praise, but they don't fit a niche. So, I bring you the Fic Quote Metronome of Hilarity! We all love humor, but in reading many fics over a many years we forget some of them. Well, for those (like me) with little free time but no life when they have it, they don't forget to save them somewhere. So, I'll brighten everyone's day with humor days/months/years gone by until someone yells at me to stop, or I forget, or I die... ... ...

    My personal favorite: "I just died. Damn. That sucks. Well, at least it didn’t hurt too badly."
    Last edited by Oathblivion; 25th September 2007 at 3:01 AM.

  19. #169
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    May 2005
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    *teh jaw drops*

    The Fic...Quote...Metronome of Hilarity.

    The most of your assumptions are correct - mostly. That was bad grammar, but 'F' it...

    AP will finish up Travis' arc. Then, the story will shift to Lucas. Because of some things that happened during PRJ, there are still unresolved issues involving the Blackthorn Clan. When I created Marco's character, it was just to make Shiro unique because, at that point, Shiro was the only trainer we knew from New Bark that wasn't an only child. When I revived Johto Generations (PRJ's first incarnation), I had to pretty much retcon a lot of stuff, seeing as I was nearly (at least Chapter-wise) halfway through the plot already.

    For those of you that didn't know, Travis and the others were all ten years old going on eleven. In addition to that, Marco is only mentioned briefly and didn't serve any particular purpose. Lauren (AKA Laena), Shiro's mother, was as of yet unnamed and no explanation was given for her death. Then, when I decided to create Marco's character, given his age and the fact that he was indeed Shiro's full brother (as opposed to a half-brother by another woman), I had to retroactively kill off Laena again, but make sure that this happened after Marco's birth. I also had her dying of illness, but the element that I introduced later is essentially one of the key cogs that makes YoD go.

        Spoiler:- HINT HERE!:


    The other is the development of Lucas' character.

        Spoiler:- Lucas:


    All of that said (if you click the spoiler button it will double the size of this post), this project has become so monolithic that ...

        Spoiler:- WHAT?!:


    I know better than anyone how ballsy a project this is. I have fun writing, but at the same time, I darn near take it as seriously as I do my college studies. It's about #5 on my list of priorities, the other four being God, my friends and family, with my music and my studies tied at #3 (as most of my studies involve music). Will I be remembered as one of the best? Maybe, by the time I'm done. It's a high goal with competition like Dragonfree and Saber hanging around, but at the end of the day, I'll do better if I shoot high and miss by a little bit than taking the easy way out. That's why I give this 110%. I don't write if I'm sleepy or if there's outside noise. I work, awake, in nearly total silence, because while quantity is good (apparently my last chapter was one of historical proportions as far as my writing is concerned), quality is better.

    Whew. That was a long rant about the future of my writing career here. Now, back to the not-so-distant future.

    I'm almost done with Chapter 18. I know I'm late, but I've been extremely sick this week. Give it a day or two and I promise I'll have you something good. Take that time to buy a box of Kleenex or something. IMHO, there are only two pieces I have ever written that are this emotionally-charged.

        Spoiler:- Which ones?:


    Anyway, I'm going to go back to work on it. Peace out to all and that good stuff.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  20. #170
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    Default Chapter 18

    Well, this is it…Travis and the gang are on their way to Slateport.

    Meanwhile, we can get a glance at things happening on the home front.

    Chapter 18: At Last, Restored


    Katherine gazed out of the window of the third-floor sunroom of her New Bark Town mansion. The woman of about thirty-five combed her long, chestnut hair. Her reddish-brown eyes had a sort of melancholy in them, as of the deadness of a mourner who simply had no more tears to cry…

    …yet, even the sky mourned in proxy for her.

    This June evening had come with torrential rains and gusty winds befitting a summer storm. Katherine continued to watch from her window, the sadness in her heart manifested in the heavens above. Trees swayed up and down the roads in her neighborhood, and she saw cascades of water slide along the main road several dozen feet below her. Looking down over her dark-green dress and pearl necklace, she saw the ‘Johto Weekly’, her subscribed newspaper. Luckily, she’d thought to pull it inside this morning before the storm hit. On the front page, she read the headline;

    PREPARATIONS BEGIN FOR GOLDEN MOON FESTIVAL IN GOLDENROD CITY
    Silvercoin To Headline Concert Series for Second Time, Planners Confirm

    Katherine scanned that article. It mentioned something about a boy named Shiro Azuki-Blackthorn being set to defend his ‘Regional Title’ in a separate column. At the top of said column was a boy that was probably about fifteen years old. He had short hair except for large bangs of crimson that fell over the center of his black headband. He also had a dragon-fang earring in his left ear, apparently. A part of Katherine was happy for the boy – she had watched him grow up (albeit from a distance) in New Bark Town, and, like many of the people in her neighborhood, thought him to be a rebellious skate punk. She’d give him this, though – he had enough passion for skateboarding to make a career of it and, from what she’d heard, do so successfully. The general feeling was, as was stated by the article, that if Shiro won this tournament, a professional contract was right around the corner, even at his age. Katherine missed the article about the ‘discovery’ of Shiro’s lineage when it came out last summer, but she understood everything alright – Shiro had been discovered to be one of the two sons of Laena Blackthorn, the long-lost and eldest child of the late Drago and Miclai Blackthorn. It astounded Katherine to know that Laena Blackthorn (albeit under a false name) had been living in their midst for years before she died mysteriously after the birth of her second son.

    Katherine turned the page and the next article, fittingly enough, was indeed about the Blackthorns:

    BLACKTHORN CLAN AWAITS NEXT GENERATION
    Baby Due Within The Week, Says J.L. Champion Lance

    “Really? That much time has passed already?” she muttered to herself as she saw the article.

    She had nearly forgotten – the nation was abuzz last year when the Blackthorns announced Lance’s engagement and subsequent marriage. Toward the beginning of this year, it was confirmed that Fiona was indeed pregnant. Either the Blackthorn family did not know the sex of the baby or they were keeping that a secret until the baby’s birth, because Katherine had heard nothing along those lines.

    She put the newspaper down – she’d find out in next week’s issue.

    At that moment, the woman’s husband walked in. At an inch above six feet, he was about the right height for a grown man, but he was built very well, which could be seen through his beige shirt and black slacks. He had short, black hair and a full beard that was trimmed extremely well. His green eyes looked down at Katherine tenderly and with a trace of pity.

    “Terrible, this weather…” he muttered, glancing out of the windows right after a loud clap of thunder. “What’s the news this week?”

    “Fiona Blackthorn’s due this week, according to the paper,” Katherine said calmly.

    “Oh, that’s right,” her black-haired, bearded husband said in a smooth, calm, baritone voice. “Does it say what it is?”

    “Nope,” Katherine replied. “They’re setting up for the Festival, too…of course, everybody who doesn’t live under a rock in Johto knows that already. They got the same band they had two years ago, when…”

    She trailed off and stared down at her sandaled feet, looking suddenly like she was about to burst into tears.

    Suddenly, she heard the two-tone chime of the doorbell reverberate through the house.

    “Who would be calling in this weather??” the man asked, mostly to himself.

    “It’s probably that girl again,” Katherine sighed. “Don’t worry – I’ll send her off.”

    “Who is that, anyway?” the man muttered as Katherine exited. He walked up to the window and sighed morosely before it, his breath clouding the dripping-wet windowpanes. He laid his head against one of the panes. He wondered where he’d gone so wrong – where he’d failed so badly…he heard his wife, downstairs, opening the door…

    “Good aftern—John!! Oh, my God—JOHNNY!!” he heard a shriek from downstairs.

    A loud thunderclap sounded and the man’s heart gave a jolt. Swearing, he began to rush down to the first floor. He’d have to overpower the attacker with brute strength – he had no time to find a weapon. After thirty seconds of running, yelling, “KATHERINE!! KATHERINE!!” he reached the stairs to the first floor and descended them, rounding the corner. He got to the halfway mark and stopped dead in his tracks.

    A young man – only a few inches shorter than he, from first glance – had his arms around the woman tightly.

    “What the hell?!” John shouted. “Who are you?!”

    The young man looked up from the woman’s shoulder and released him. He had black hair that was extremely long and untidy, and hung limply as it was a bit wet. He was wearing a blue traveling cloak that looked to be absolutely soaked with rain. The eyes, though…he had burgundy eyes, and that’s what gave him away.

    “Nathaniel?” John tilted his head, almost refusing to believe it. “Son, is that you?”

    The fifteen-year-old – at least, if John was right – looked at him…and nodded. In spite of himself, John clenched his fists and began to shake with anger.

    “I can’t begin to describe the pain your mother went through. Crying herself to sleep all those nights whenever she’d look at pictures of you as a baby…” he growled. Opening his eyes and raising his hand, he walked toward Nathaniel and shouted, “YOU DAMNED FOOL!”

    WHAM.

    “JOHN, NO!!” Katherine screamed – but it had already been done. John had hit his teenage son square in the left jaw with a well-placed fist. Nate’s head snapped sideways as he made no effort to block or dodge the punch. It was at this point that John noticed the cross-shaped scar on Nate’s left cheek, for John had hit him in that exact spot, turning it slightly red. Everything went quiet. All that could be heard were the raindrops bombarding the ceiling and windows and, just over that, Katherine’s racking sobs.

    “I guess I had that coming,” Nate said in a stoic-sounding voice. After a second’s pause, he found himself engulfed in his father’s arms, which were the size of tree limbs. He could have sworn that he heard a sniffle or two, which really would have been something. He remembered his mother, Katherine, telling him that the only time that John had ever cried in front of her was at Nate’s birth and at hearing the news of the death of his own father, whom he had apparently idolized in his youth. He felt another pair of arms around him – his mother had joined in as well. He stayed silent for several moments, not willing to talk. After causing the man and woman who had birthed and reared him nearly two years’ worth of pain, he felt he had no right. After what had to have been five minutes, they finally let him go and stood in front of him. Katherine’s eyes were filled with tears almost like the day they sent him off on his Pokémon Journey, except with deliberate differences.

    “How awful…” Katherine muttered, stepping closer to her son, putting her hand to her forehead, and bringing the edge of it to a spot right above Nate’s eyebrows. “You were shorter than I am when you left summer before last. Now you’re nearly as big as your father!”

    “Katherine,” John said calmly, gently pulling her away almost as if there were bigger things that he wanted to talk about. “Nathaniel, where have you been all this time?”

    (When Nate had left Johto permanently in late 2011, his parents never actually saw him. They were out running errands at the time and he left a letter in their mailbox. Therefore, it has been just over two years since Katherine and John Elm saw their son last.)

    “I did everything you wanted. Learned more about the world…toughened up…joined an army for a while…” Nate said, sounding rather distracted.

    “Joined the army? You’re only fifteen!” John shouted incredulously. “Who let you enlist?”

    “It wasn’t Johto’s army,” Nate said. “It was something more…underground.”

    “Just tell me who it was,” John said. “I’m a military official – there isn’t much that slips by me.”

    “There was a war two years ago…Johto’s army wasn’t involved,” Nate said.

    “Blackthorn City?” John asked. “That was the time where the Council refused to help Blackthorn City…”

    Nate nodded.

    “That’s what happens when you’re dealing with the supernatural…” Nate said, pulling a sword out from behind his cloak. Katherine gasped and John let out a stifled yell. “Some people don’t believe you.”

    “That sword…” John muttered. “Don’t they have legends about that sword? My mother used to read them to me when I was little. My father didn’t like it one bit.”

    Nate drew the sword.

    “What do you think you’re doing?!” John shouted.

    “I didn’t believe it when I first heard, either…” Nate said. “There were three swords that were created by the three servants of Arceus. They each had three different but cooperating purposes. To judge, to rule…”

    “To bring peace,” John finished. “Do you mean to tell me –”

    A faint orange glow emanated from the blade of the sword – then it turned white. John took a step back and let out a gasp. After three or four seconds, Nate sheathed the sword.

    “When war broke out, it was my job to stop it,” he began to explain. “Funny, seeing as I got this sword from being on the wrong side to begin with – all because I let my selfishness and personal vendettas define what was right and wrong. Then I woke up. Or someone woke me up…”

    “John…” Katherine spoke up. “Can’t you hear his explanation later? I’m sure he’s tired and probably hungry.”

    John looked up at Nate for a moment and smiled.

    “That’s fine – you can finish when you’re ready,” he said. Nate was almost surprised. Then, John explained it. “It’s hard to think that you’re lying about all of this when you brought the sword with you as proof. What’s important is that you’re here…for however long you’re staying.”

    Katherine gasped.

    “You’re leaving again??” she asked. Nate turned to her.

    “No…I came back because I heard someone I knew was here,” Nate explained. “I’m going to find her…but not today.”

    “No…not today,” Katherine repeated, putting her hand on her son’s shoulder. “Today, you’re going to rest.”

    June 13, PA 2013 – New Bark Town


    That day and the next passed, and had been comprised mostly of questions and awkward silences. After all, they had not been together as a family for over two years. Katherine and J.R. noticed that Nate – from his tastes to his outlook on life – had undergone a drastic change in that frame of time. For example, Nate point-blank refused to let his mother cut his hair. Of course, Katherine made a huge issue about it while Nate attempted to explain that he simply preferred his hair that way now. Eventually, she relented and allowed him to keep the wild, spiky mane of hair that he had grown.

    Now, he stood in the sunroom on the third floor – ironically, the same room where his mother had kept vigil for him during his absence (although she never told him that). He had dispensed with his traveling outfit – the cloak and orange shirt…there was no need for them anymore. He had returned to more normal dress – a black, button-down shirt with short sleeves and blue jeans. Today was much more pleasant than the day of his arrival; the sun shone brightly through a few fair weather clouds.

    He looked down upon the street and wondered; what was she like now? In the letter, she had seemed almost normal – like she had forgotten anything that had to do with her childhood or the war.

    Nate knew that wasn’t true.

    If she’d forgotten about the war, she’d have forgotten about him, too – and from the way she wrote, she might have thought of him every day. When…or if…they finally met, what would he say to her?

    Sorry, Avril – I didn’t bother coming back because I was sure you were dead.

    How does one explain to another that he gave up all hope of the other’s survival?

    Would he introduce himself like a normal person, as if the two had, up to that point, been complete and total strangers?

    No – that was stupid.

    Frustrated with himself, Nate sat down in the chair. He picked up the nearby newspaper, which had not left its place since the day he had returned, and began to read through it.

    He saw that Shiro was doing well…Travis would be happy to hear that.

    Lance was expecting his first child soon…

    He put the newspaper down and went into his pocket. He took out a small picture of a girl about his age with honey-blond hair. At that moment, he heard a woman’s voice.

    “Nate?”

    He recognized the voice at once and turned toward the door. His mother, Katherine, was wearing a white blouse and black skirt. She strode in and sat down right next to her son, looking over his shoulder at the picture. Nate didn’t bother to put it away – he figured that he’d held enough secrets from his parents to last them all a lifetime. To his surprise, Katherine smiled.

    “She’s pretty,” she commented, trying to sound conversational.

    “Yeah…” Nate muttered, lost in his thoughts for a moment.

    “She’s here, you know – that girl,” Katherine said, looking at her son with a smile on her face and ruffling his wild, black hair – a habit she found she rather enjoyed after a while. “…or, at least, someone that looks like her.”

    “What’s her name?” Nate asked, trying to sound as calm as possible, even though he was sure that his mother could hear his heart about to burst forth from the confines of his chest. Katherine stood, looked out of the window, and began to speak.

    “Avril Pennington,” she said very clearly. Even if Nate had wanted to mistake what she’d said for something else, he couldn’t have done so. The picture fell from his hands and wafted harmlessly to the ground. With a slight gasp, Nate bent down to pick it up. Just as he did that, his mother added, as matter-of-factly as possible, “Actually, when I opened the door and saw you yesterday, she’s who I was expecting. She comes over here from time to time looking for you.”

    Nate let out an audible gasp. Katherine turned around and saw the pained look on her child’s face. There was awkward silence for a moment. Nate stood up and began to walk out.

    “I’m…going to take a walk,” Nate muttered. At once, Katherine began to panic.

    “Take a walk?” she repeated, dumbfounded. “Wh-where are you going??”

    “A walk around town,” Nate explained, looking over his shoulder. “After two years…things might have changed. It’d be nice to remind myself where everything is.”

    Katherine smiled a knowing smile.

    “You’re going to look for her, aren’t you?” she asked. Nate looked toward the ground.

    “Eventually,” Nate answered.

    “Why not now?” Katherine asked. “Apparently, if you’ve carried her picture in your pocket all this time, she’s pretty important to you.”

    Nate grimaced.

    “…I don’t think I’m ready,” Nate answered. “I don’t know…”

    “You always talk in code nowadays,” Katherine commented, exasperated. “Why don’t you give me a straight answer? What don’t you know?”

    “I don’t know if it’s a good idea,” Nate said. “If Avril remembers me, she might remember other things that weren’t so happy. Maybe it’s better if we never see each other…”

    “That sounds like a silly idea,” Katherine said. “If you plan on staying, you’ll see each other at some point.”

    “I know,” Nate sighed. “I just…need to get my head on straight before that happens.”

    He walked out without a further word, figuring that further conversation would do no good at all. He wished not to leave Katherine alone. J.R. was at a meeting that day – it just so happened that the Assessment took place not long after Nate arrived home. The Assessment was a yearly peacetime census of sorts – but not of the entire populace. Rather, the Assessment was a count and categorization of all military forces. J.R. Elm, as the highest-ranked able-bodied military officer in New Bark Town (serving in the stead of his aging Lieutenant, who had apparently been confined to bed), had been commissioned to receive this report.

    Nate shut the door behind him and began to walk away from the mansion. As soon as he had gone far enough to look up into the sunroom, where his mother was gazing down at him with a look of worry on her face, he muttered, “Don’t worry. I’m coming back this time.”

    He set off down the road and felt the warmth of the sun and the cool of the breeze against his face. It was still morning, so the air was still very comfortable. As he walked a road that he knew very well, he allowed his mind to wander for a while before realizing that it could not do so properly. To say that he had a lot on his mind would be true, yet at the same time untrue. Although he had many things to think about, all of them traced themselves back to one person. She had been reinserted into his life like the unexpected change of a well-thought-out plan, and Nate didn’t quite know how to handle it. He was sure that she had changed drastically in two years. Because of the picture, he had an idea what she looked like, and could probably pick her out of a crowd if necessary. Once he saw her again, though…

    Would she recognize him? Surely, the hair would remind her (part of the reason that Nate refused to have it cut). His voice had changed a bit in the last two years, obviously. He had grown much taller – that was the first thing that his mother noticed after getting over the shock of his return. Now that he thought of it, his parents had to feel about him the same way he felt about Avril. Here was someone very dear and close to his heart, and he thought that he had lost her – just like they thought that they had lost him. Then, suddenly, she was back in his life. The idea of them being together was now, instead of something encountered in pleasant dreams, a very real thing…

    …and because of that, he had no idea how or what to think or feel.

    Happy, perhaps? That should have been the first thing to come to mind. She was alive and still remembered him. But…

    …angry? Angry that Fate had played such a cruel trick on him by sending him on a most painful downward spiral for nearly two full years, only to have him find out that the one whom he was mourning so sorely was, in fact, alive? The powers that be like to play games with some people, so perhaps…

    …paranoid? This seemed too good to be true. Usually, if it seems too good to be true, it is. Could that mean that someone, in fact, was lying to him, all in an effort to get him to come home and to stay here? His own mother wouldn’t do that to him, would she? Katrina went through a lot of trouble to convince him.

    …Betrayed? Had Avril simply pointed to a spot on a map and figured to find a way to get her letter there?

    …No, that didn’t add up.

    Was this whole situation contrived by a combination of lucky circumstances?

    If they had been meant for each other, he wouldn’t have lost her for two years, would he?

    By this time, his thoughts had carried him all the way to Barkton Terrace. Things here were a lot cozier and a lot less complicated here. Two years ago, he hated this place on principle – avoided it, in fact. He looked down on these people because they were not affluent enough to live in Gilchrist Heights like he did. Moreover, some of the people that he used to hate most lived here.

    Class, income…foolish distinctions they were – mad discriminations that simply brought out the worst in people. The entire concept of society, it seemed, was based on the hand of cards one was dealt. If you were ‘meant’ to be something, you’d have the right people around you to make you that something.

    You’d be born into the right family.

    You’d have the right teachers.

    You’d have the appropriate hobbies and interests.

    Your fate was predetermined from birth – nothing could be done to stop it. Your choices could not stop it, for they were preordained as well.

    Foolishness.

    People can change – Nate knew that now…and even if it were not so, it wouldn’t matter. He also knew that love crossed any borders. It blurred any lines that Man could invent, any walls he could erect, any barriers he could build.

    …and it was because of love that Men could dream.


    Dammit... AURA’s newest agent thought to himself as he reached a dead end on the Hyperion. This place has about a million twists and turns. Where the hell is the deck?? He saw cloaked agents everywhere. He had figured something out, as all of the grunt-level agents seemed to be the exact same height and body build. But that wasn’t significant right now. Philippe had ordered everyone out to the top of the airship for some kind of rally. The agent, wearing a cloak in the same style as the one that he had had before, except it was all black, made a left to where he saw some grunts headed. After a few steps of walking, counting the tiles along the floor that all looked exactly the same, he hit something, and heard someone stumble.

    “Sorry,” the agent grunted. He then heard a girlish groan. “So, you’re human, then?”

    “It didn’t take you long to figure out where our king gets his pawns,” the girl answered. Slowly, she removed her cloak, and the agent was taken aback.

    Damn... he swore to himself in astonishment. This girl had to be about his own age. She had striking, light-blonde hair that went down to her shoulders, baby blue eyes that seemed to have no end to them, and her face...it didn’t just look like it had been shaped by a god. She looked like she herself was divine. She had that same beauty, that same elegance, that same innocence. She reminded him of the mythical elves his mother used to read to him about in those stupid fairy tales. But this was real...

    “You’re lost, aren’t you?” The girl answered. “Lord Nathaniel?”

    Feeling it would be rude to keep his hood on when the girl already knew who he was, Nate removed it.

    “I sure hope our enemies don’t spot me that easily,” Nate commented. “How’d you know?”

    “You’re not hard to find,” the girl said with no change in her expression, which was a shame – Nate wondered how beautiful her smile was. “You’re the only one that has that cloak, and your hair’s even darker than it is.”

    Trying not to get distracted from the task at hand, Nate suddenly said, “I sure hope you know your way around here, because I sure don’t.”

    Nate started walking. He heard no footsteps, so the girl, far from leading him, wasn’t following. He turned around.

    “My name’s Avril,” the girl said.

    “Avril, that’s a nice name, if you don’t mind me saying so,” Nate said. “But why is it so important for me to know who you are? It’s obvious that everybody works in secret around here.”

    “Well, there aren’t a lot of normal human beings around here to talk to,” Avril replied. “Plus, we’ll be working together – under Lord Philippe, of course. Since we’re the only other humans in the unit, we’re his overseers.”

    “Overseers?” Nate repeated, confused. He didn’t yet know AURA’s terminology. “Can you explain it on the way? I have no idea how to get anywhere on this monster of an airship.”


    The first time he and Avril had met…he had joined a terrorist army. A ‘Resistance,’ its leader, Angelos – a chilling, sadistic, monster of a man – called it. Nate hadn’t really cared much about Angelos’ plans. All that he knew, all that he cared about, was that Angelos’ plan involved destroying Travis.

    He hated Travis – a pretty-boy goody-two-shoes over that good-for-nothing slum everyone called Barkton Terrace. He was always preaching the concepts of ‘love’ and ‘friendship’…how annoying. Even worse was the fact that everybody loved him for it. It was as if the success that he was born into no longer mattered. Nate let a smile cross his lips as he walked. It was so ironic, it was almost painful to think about it…that he met his first love because of decisions he had made – decisions fueled by his hatred for someone else.

    He still remembered how she looked on that fateful June day two years ago. She was beautiful even back then, but her ash-blond hair was flyaway and uncontrollable. She was always as pale as a ghost back then, too…as if she was living in perpetual fear...

    Nate remembered feeling one thing as Avril shared with him the little she knew about herself. He remembered feeling one emotion – pity. He then realized how hopeless and miserable the trap of fatalism truly was. To say that one could not alter his or her circumstances degraded living to a long, tedious process of going through the motions.

    As for her, she had resigned herself to a fate of death on the battlefield in service to Lord Angelos. She saw no reason to continue living and, in fact, embraced the idea of death as a deliverer – a cure for her meaninglessness. This was a powerful lesson to Nate about the human mind.

    ”A man who has no purpose has no hope.”

    “You’re too beautiful to die on a battlefield,” he had told her once. Somehow, he felt that her life – and, in turn, his own – was worth so much more than that. He looked ahead to a future of peace…somehow.

    How ironic that he nearly ruined it for both of them by staying on the wrong side for so long.

    This was, of course, when he was still semi-normal. He had no idea of true nature of his sword, nor the part he was to play in that grand history.

    Slowly, but surely, he fell, driven nearly to madness by the decisions he had made and ever-conscious about how they affected her. Then, one day, he woke up and realized that her happiness and well-being was, in his eyes, more important than his own.

    He realized that he loved her.


    In the sky above him, where a few stars were still barely visible, the dark blue burned as it met the horizon, and orange and red from the sunrise kissed the clear waters of Olivine’s coast. It seemed to him the best time in the day to come here and think. He had been completely silent for probably the last day or so, talking to no one and avoiding everyone – because there was still too much on his mind. He had spent what felt like forever in soul-searching, trying to find out who he really was. Today he was up before the sun to watch the dawning of a new day – another chapter in his purposeless existence.

    Life sucks when you can’t find a reason to live.

    It sucks even more when the quality of your life is solely dependent on whether someone else is dead.

    And that was the situation that he found himself in. He sighed morosely at the rising sun as he again contemplated the emptiness of his life up to this point. All of his stock had been in things. He had never worried about people. He never needed them. Up until now, he had never felt a need for anyone – their presence, let alone their kind words, advice, or favors. Up until now, people were just nice to have — to use. They were trophies, they were put on the earth to please him. And he owed them nothing in return.

    Up until now.

    He sat down as, not for the first time, the gravity of his foolishness hit him. His burgundy eyes stared at the sandy ground beneath him. They closed in sorrow, penitence, but most of all, they closed in fatigue.

    He was tired.


    Not physically tired – his soul was broken. Not only could he not suppress his own feelings, but he failed even to control them. He was tired of suppressing his own feelings, because the result had been that he no longer knew which was which. And the pressure...the pressure had built up inside of him, tearing away at his soul – eating at it like a cancer. For the first time, he sang to himself a song that he had written over the last week – a song that described where he was.

    I am nothing but an angry child of nothingness...

    Love is such a foreign world to me.

    I am nothing but a hardened heart that can’t confess

    The truth that I so need to set me free —

    So I am empty. . .


    But maybe one day my scars will fall away,

    I’ll lay down all I won’t yet say

    To you, to show you who I am.

    And maybe one day you’ll let down all your walls,

    And hand in hand, we’ll finally fall

    To earth, to death and rebirth, from skies so far above,

    We’ll fall to love...


    Deep in thought, he began on the second verse, but stopped quickly as he felt a presence behind him. Someone had been watching him this entire time.

    “That was...beautiful,” the girl’s voice said simply. The girl sat down very close to him. She had blonde hair and grey eyes that looked very familiar, but was wearing a white blouse and a black dress that went down to just above her knees.

    “Not really...it’s really cold and ugly,” Nate said finally. “I never sang before because I was never in touch with how I felt. I always hid it under lying to myself...’til, finally, I started to believe my own bull.”

    “For someone who doesn’t like to sing, you do it well,” the blonde-haired girl said blankly.

    “You know, musicians are a cursed race of people. You can always tell from their voices how much pain they’ve gone though, and how much they’ve seen and heard,” Nate said mournfully. “You can hear the pain in my voice. But it’s too much...it doesn’t sound good.”

    “It’s honest,” the girl said. “You’re not lying to yourself or anyone around you about how much your heart aches when you make music. And that’s why...to me, it’s beautiful.”

    “Avril...” Nate whispered.

    “That song...” Avril said. “What made you write it?”

    “It’s complicated...” Nate said. “Basically, I know someone...I guess it’s better to say that I have ‘feelings’ for this someone...who knows as little about love as I do.”

    “At least you know something,” Avril said.


    The sea breeze blew Nate’s ever-lengthening, jet-black hair across his face. He sighed and looked at Avril. “Do I?”

    “...are we on the right side...Nathaniel?” Avril asked after a long, nearly painful silence.

    “How the hell should I know?” Nate answered with a sudden harshness in frustration. “All I know is...I have to...no, we have to, at the end of all of this, be on the side that wins. And that’s called ‘survival’.”

    “We?” Avril repeated. “I thought you only cared about destroying him.”

    “I thought I did, too...” Nate muttered. As if paying homage to the significance of this comment, nature went completely quiet at this moment, save for the rushing in of the tide. “And since I’m the villain of this story, I don’t know...if justice will allow me...and this person...”

    He stood up. Avril followed him soon after.

    “Ironic...I’m fighting for an idea that will end up destroying me, too. Because I was cursed to be the villain of this story...”

    “I don’t believe so,” Avril replied. Nate looked at her for a second and saw something he had never seen before –

    As her gray eyes lit up with the colors of the sunrise and lustered like silver when the light hits it, she was smiling. A true smile.

    “I think...that wherever love is, a hero can be,” Avril said. “And since you have love, you have at least a chance. So maybe you’re not a villain – maybe you’re another kind of hero.”

    “I thought I gave up on love,” Nate muttered.

    “...I guess, then, the only answer is that love didn’t give up on you,” Avril replied. Nate felt a lump forming in his throat. She had been brainwashed to be a killing machine for nearly the entirety of the short time she’d been on this earth. She, strictly speaking, wasn’t supposed to feel love. And yet she still believed. She hadn’t given up on love...so what right did he have to say that he did? Maybe, eventually, everything would work out. AURA would win the war, and he and she could be together in life, and not in death.

    Maybe it was his turn to believe.

    He put his arms around her and was a bit surprised to find that she did not resist. She buried her face in his chest and stayed there for a while, almost as if trying to get closer to him than even he could pull her. As he stood here embracing her, he knew that he could not tell her yet. That would happen after the war, but there was something he knew he could say to her now, to help them to that point.

    “We’ll make it through this, Avril,” Nate whispered. “I promise.”


    He arrived at the town park – the same place where Katrina had dumped him over three and a half years ago. He sat down on the bench and looked straight ahead.

    For all his wandering, it was now approaching high noon. The sun was warmer, but not merciless, as the recent storms had cooled the air enough to be manageable.

    Before the fountain, he sat and he wondered – if he did see her again…provided that everyone was not lying to him…how would he react?

    Would he be afraid and run away again?

    Or would they spend every possible moment together, as they did when they first met?

    In the face of war, they had found peace only with each other. To each, the other was solace. She was the eye that was in the center of the storm that was his life at that point. His only sanity in an insane world…then…just as suddenly as he had met her, she was gone.


    September 1, PA 2011 – Battle on the Plains of Jonah


    Nate turned on his heel and charged...not Travis, but Philippe, who was nearly decapitated before he could register what was going on. He and Nate traded blows for a couple of seconds, before Philippe, in a towering rage, hit Nate so hard that the latter went skidding backwards and came to a stop just feet in front of Travis, who jumped backward and brandished his own sword just in case he was about to be a victim of a...he guessed that this would be a double-double-crossing...would that make this...

    A triple-crossing, if Nate were to double-cross Philippe, and then cross Travis again? Since he was on the side opposite Travis to begin with, he couldn’t truly be considered to have double-crossed him? Since they were enemies at first, he’d have only crossed Travis once, because that was all that would be necessary...A triple-crossing...

    Or, if Nate (now, apparently, on Travis’ side, at least for the time being) turned around and attacked Travis while his guard was lowered, would he be considered to have double-crossed Travis after he double-crossed Philippe...thereby making this a....quadruple-crossing?!

    Travis was confused entirely. Just what the hell was going on?!

    “Get going!” Nate shouted. “Leave Philippe to me! Knock down the rest of those drones – Angelos should show his face soon!”

    Travis, already not willing to stick around long enough to see Nate switch sides again (if he was indeed going to), decided to take off away from Nate and Philippe, still limping a bit because of the recent injuries that he had sustained. His body no longer felt tired, but now his brain certainly felt tired. This was like taking the TEST all over again...

    Meanwhile, Philippe was uttering an extremely loud and filthy expletive at his opponent.

    “That’s a nice greeting,” Nate growled. “You must be even dumber than you look. After the way you treated Avril...after all you’ve put us through...you mean to tell me that you didn’t see this coming? Yes, I destroyed your airship out of spite when I found out about what you did to Avril. Yes, you! Did you think I was stupid?! I know damn well that you’re the only one that had a key to Avril’s cell.”

    “Urgh...so, after all the fighting you did for us, you’re nothing but just another bleeding heart,” Philippe said, rolling his eyes derisively. “That’s the reason she’s in a cell right now. People with hearts are —“

    “– no use to you,” Nate cut him off. “You’ve cut down anybody that has a heart. Even your own father...”

    “My father misused his power,” Philippe said sharply. “So I removed him.”

    “You’re full of it,” Nate growled. “You had your father executed because, among other things, he actually cared about Avril. Before I met her, that was the only person she ever thought cared about her...and you took him away, too...”

    “I’ll see him in hell,” Philippe said nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders.

    “Very soon...” Nate growled, his hair beginning to stand on end just a bit. “Personally, I hope they’re saving the two worst torture chambers in hell for after this battle. I think you should know that Angelos deserves the second worst torture chamber!!”

    “I’m shaking in my boots,” Philippe barked sarcastically. Pointing his sword at Nate presently, he snarled, “Look. I don’t think you realize how big of a mistake you just made.”

    “I haven’t made any mistake,” Nate said calmly. “Except for not doing this sooner.”

    Nate brandished his sword, steeled his courage, and charged...



    Philippe and Nate had been trading sword strikes for what seemed like an eternity. Philippe swung his sword at about the torso region of Nate, who blocked the strike easily and then struck Philippe in his jaw with the hilt of his sword. Blood went flying from Philippe’s mouth as his lip was cut by the attack. A dangerous orange glow coming from his eyes, Nate raised his right hand (as his sword hand was his left hand), aimed, and fired an orange-colored wind blast from his palm. This ball of light, about the size of a rather large grapefruit, smashed into Philippe and blew him backward by an immense amount. Nate lowered his hand and immediately gave chase. Raising his sword, he attempted to drive straight into Philippe, but the latter blocked with his own sword, although he was being pushed backward by the force of Nate’s strike. Eventually, he simply let Nate overextend himself. Then, to Nate’s misfortune, Philippe’s vicious streak took over. He kneed Nate in the nose and then grabbed the boy by his throat. Laughing maniacally, he lifted the boy’s head, took his sword, and placed the point right on Nate’s belly. Then, as slowly and as painfully as he could possibly do, he pushed. After about a second, the blade pierced the skin and began to sink deeper and deeper as Nate choked and groaned in pain.

    “You missed something,” Philippe growled. “Don’t you understand? It doesn’t matter what you do here. Even if you win...you’ll be too late to save Avril. She’ll die, one way or another. She would have been better off fighting with us and dying that way. But she chose to love. She chose to rot away in a cell and watch as you are destroyed...”

    He yanked the sword out and then painfully kneed Nate in the groin. It doesn’t matter how powerful you are – that hurts like hell.

    “Heh...” Philippe chuckled as Nate, groaning loudly, sank to the ground, concentrating hard to hold on to his sword instead of holding on to...himself. “Every man’s worst weakness, eh?”

    “Tch...” Nate groaned, his eyes blurred by pain and venom as he stared at the ground. “To hell with fighting fair, right? ...urgh!”

    “Attacking vulnerability – that’s fair, obviously. As a matter of fact,” Philippe commented. “That’s how you win a war. So...you’re a smart kid. You tell me: How’s the best way to avoid getting hit at your weak point?”

    “Learn how to...defend it...” Nate groaned, swearing in pain. “Damn you...”

    “Better yet?” Philippe replied. Raising his sword to Nate’s face, he carefully slipped the blade of the sword across Nate’s cheek, creating a cross-shaped scar. “Don’t have the weakness at all.”


    “Gah...” Nate groaned again, struggling to get off of the ground while fighting the unimaginable pain in his groin. He figured that he’d at least better get up while Philippe was screwing around with him. If nothing else, he’d buy himself a few more seconds and die with dignity.

    “Now, I’ve got another question,” Philippe said. “How much do you think that would’ve hurt if you’d had three?”

    “Where do you come up with this ****?” Nate swore, getting to his feet as his eyes came back into focus. “Never mind – just get to the point. These sick metaphors are killing me, among other things...”

    “You want to hear the moral of the story, do you?” Philippe answered. “Love’s just another weakness.”

    “I hate to say it,” Nate muttered. “But you’re half-right.”

    “Half-right?” Philippe repeated.

    “If you want to do evil....” Nate replied, his mouth twisting up into a weak smirk. “Love’ll screw you over every time. Believe me – I know from experience.”

    “And maybe you’re half-right,” Philippe conceded. “Maybe love is a good thing to have. But here’s the question you’re not answering well enough for me – is it worth the pain?”

    “What?” Nate asked, taken aback.

    “A demonstration,” Philippe said, going into his pocket for something unfriendly.



    Slowly, Travis stood. His eyes narrowed and he saw his target above him. He raised his finger straight into the air and an enormous ball of energy began to emanate from it. This ball quickly shrank to the size of a small cherry. Travis could have sworn that he heard shouting somewhere in the background of his troubled mind, but he ignored it. All that mattered now...all that mattered was destroying this ship. If he destroyed this ship, he and Katrina, and the rest of his friends could all go home to peace. If he destroyed this ship – the ship that had to contain Angelos, considering that he could not be found anywhere else – the war would end. He steeled his resolve and channeled as much power as physically possible into his left index finger. He continued to hear the shouting. Perhaps the people behind him were celebrating. Hopefully someone who was celebrating back there had the sense to fix up Katrina while they were at it...because, if she died, he would never be able to forgive himself. He saw what had to be the center of the airship, and he let it rip.

    “SACRED NOVA SHOT!” he shouted. He heard a resounding crack and felt a slight pain in his hand (as the recoil from his attack created a crater within a crater). As he’d half expected, the force from this shot had broken his left index finger. The ball shot up into the center of the airship and then faded.

    Nate looked into the air with shock. His heart literally stopped beating as, a few moments after it seemed like nothing at all had happened, the entire ship suddenly went up in a white fireball as the sky around them darkened from blue to black and red.

    “NOOOOOO!!” Nate yelled at the top of his lungs over the sound of the explosion. He watched as a small, meteor-like streak shot out from the explosion in the southern direction, toward New Bark Town and then looked back as the ship was entirely consumed. The sky turned to its original color, and there was now no sign that the airship had ever been there – not even dust. The Sacred Nova Shot had completely obliterated the Highlander. “Avril...no...”

    Like a broken tape, his mind began at the meeting with Philippe at the forests outside of Ecruteak...

    His first meeting with Avril...

    ”Are you lost?”

    Their growing ever closer in the days that were to follow...

    ”You’re too beautiful to die on a battlefield.”

    His promises to her...the ones that he had failed to keep...

    ”I will get you out of here.”

    ”One day, when we have peace, you’ll be able to spread your own wings. And you’ll be the most beautiful Butterfree anyone’s ever seen.

    ”...the most beautiful Butterfree anyone’s ever seen.”

    ”One day...

    ”I will get you out of here.”

    ”...you’ll be able to spread your own wings.”

    ”One day...”

    ”...when we have peace...”
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 3rd October 2007 at 1:14 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  21. #171
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    May 2005
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    ~~~ *** ~~~

    The small ferry let out a blast like a foghorn. Under cover of darkness, the ship began to pull out of the harbor in Olivine. Less than a week had passed since the end of the war. It had been won…but not for Nate. He folded up a black cloak – the last of them, and the only trinket that remained from the one he had loved…and let it slip from his hands into the sea, which quickly swallowed it. Looking at the water, he saw the reflection of the harvest moon. It was bright and, judging by the reflections, probably in its crescent phase. But Nate couldn’t bring himself to look at it.

    It reminded him too much of her eyes – too much of the last time he had seen her. She had looked up at him with those eyes – silver and hopeful.

    He had failed miserably in his promise to her. He promised that they would get through this – both of them.

    It was completely his fault that she was dead, and it was all he could do not to launch himself into the sea and allow himself to be claimed by it. Silent tears streamed from his eyes as his hands squeezed the railing in a death grip, afraid that, should he let go, he would lose his grip on himself as well and take the ultimate and permanent escape route into the depths below.

    Escape sounded so sweet right now. He did not want to be himself again – now or ever. So he would wander.

    Perhaps, someday, he would find a different identity of sorts – someone that was more than a monster, more than a murderer, more than a breaker of his word…

    His parents would cry – would mourn him as if he was gone for good…and he didn’t know. He might well have been. He wasn’t sure if he would – if he could – ever return to New Bark Town. He knew that the prospect of living a normal life was out of the question. He had seen too much, and those visions would haunt him for the rest of his natural life, whether he lived to be a miserable century old or Death was merciful and delivered him from his grief tonight.

    What use was he to anyone in this state? If anyone could manage to make any sense of the millions of pieces that comprised his broken life, they could do what they wanted with him. His chest now heaving with sobs, he cried aloud his rage and agony to the iron sea and the black sky.

    “WHY?!” he shouted. “I did everything you wanted me to – everything! So why did you take her away? She deserved a chance at a better life – we both did!!”

    Save for the rushing of the sea and the whipping of the wind, the response consisted of nothing but more silence. Nevertheless, he continued to yell:

    “This is what I get, right?! I see now why people are so evil. It’s not worth it to do the right thing, is it?! Did you give us these swords to torture us – to make us miserable?! …I know you’re out there – one of you. Answer me!! ANSWER ME, DAMN YOU!!”

    Nate yanked the Sacred Gale from his waist, unsheathed it, flung the scabbard to the ground, and pointed the blade defiantly at the silver moon above him.

    “You know what?” Nate muttered. “I don’t even need this sword where I’m going. YOU CAN HAVE IT BACK!!!”

    And with that, he reared back and tomahawked the sword toward the moon with all the strength he could muster. He watched it spin away and disappear into the moonlight. It would fall somewhere, here in the sea. Where, he did not know…

    …and he did not care.

    He dropped to his knees, the grief and pain pressing in on him like a weight crushing his chest. He rose to his feet and staggered to the edge of the ship. Finally, it all became too much, and with a groan and final sob, he fainted.


    There was some kind of light in front of him. If he could have finally smiled, he would have. Here it was. It turned out that Death was going to have mercy on him after all. Everything had ended the only way it could have now done so. His grief had made him too weak to raise the sword and kill himself, yet not weak enough to simply die. Inwardly, he wondered how the captain of the ship would react when he found the body of a boy that looked otherwise healthy the night before. No one would know what was wrong…

    No one but Nate himself. He knew…that he had died of a broken heart. The light grew larger and brighter. Maybe there were Wingull in the beyond – he certainly heard them.

    Was Avril here, too? Maybe he could find her and the two could be together after all.

    “Arr…he’s comin’ to!!” apparently the Reaper fancied himself a pirate…

    “Should we throw some water on him?” another voice asked, sounding like he was half-joking.

    “Be serious, boy!! Methinks he’s had more’n enough water on him for a while!” the first voice answered gruffly.

    Something didn’t go right. Why did someone want to wake him so badly?

    Nate opened his eyes. The faces and forms of three men swam into view. The one standing right over his head was the first one that Nate saw. He had the biggest sailor’s hat of the three. He looked to be middle-aged, and the orange of his hair and beard made him look like a veteran tiger that had seen many a hunt. He was wearing a large, blue jacket and seemed to have a sword on one hip and a pistol on the other.

    “Where…where am I?” Nate groaned, rolling over and looking up at them.

    “You’re on the Selma. It’s a pirate ship in these waters,” a young-sounding voice said. Nate looked slightly to his left and saw an orange-haired teenager. He might have been a year or two older than Nate himself, if that. If Nate were to stand up, this boy would probably be a head or so taller than him. His face and figure looked so similar to that of the captain’s that Nate surmised that he might be the captain’s son. On the Captain’s right stood a colossal man with a scarred face, carrying something in a huge wrapping on his back.

    “Get it right, kid,” this last man turned to the boy and said in an aggressive-sounding voice. “Yer on the Selma, the strongest and most powerful pirate ship in these waters.”

    “Carrigan,” the captain groaned, sounding exasperated. “Royce – please, stop arguing.”

    “Is this Johto?” Nate’s first question.

    “First things first – who are you?” the youth with the orange hair asked.

    “Royce! Don’t be so rude,” the captain scolded his son. “Shouldn’t we introduce ourselves first?”

    “He might be a spy working for the king,” Carrigan said suspiciously.

    “King?” Nate repeated. “Johto’s a republic, isn’t it?”

    “You’re not in Johto, kid,” the captain finally spoke. “We crossed over into Hoenn water just a few minutes ago.”

    “Hoenn…” Nate muttered, looking down at the ground.

    “Do you know where Hoenn is, boy?” the captain asked.

    “Why do you insist on calling everyone ‘boy’?” Royce, the captain’s son, asked in frustration. “He must have a name, right?”

    “Suppose you’re right,” the captain replied to his son. Then, looking down at Nate, he asked, “So, what’s your name, boy?”

    Royce rolled his eyes.

    “My name’s…” Nate looked down at the ground for a moment. He hated to even say it.

    In fact, he couldn’t bring himself to say it.

    To him, that name was now a stigma; being known by that name would remind him every day of his irreparable failure. Even now as he thought of it, he could hear her calling him…

    That identity had been shattered, and with his new moniker came an understanding that he would have to become a new person – a different self than the one he had been before.

    “Clayton,” he finally said. “My name’s Clayton.”

    “Can you stand?” Royce asked. Nate did so and got to his feet.

    “What happened to me?” he queried.

    “You don’t remember?” the captain responded. “You must have fallen overboard during that sudden storm last night.”

    “Storm?” Nate repeated again, not concerned about how stupid he must have sounded parroting the captain’s words over and over; he didn’t remember any storm.

    “It was the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a while,” Royce commented. “The sky was clear last night and then, just like that – hurricane conditions. After about five solid minutes, it was gone. We found you on the water, and this was floating next to you.”

    From behind his back he produced a long sword in its sheath. Something within Nate seemed to die as he recognized just what the sword was. Hopelessly, he took the sword back in silent defeat and began to walk away.


    Nate stayed with this group of sailors – the Skull Pirates, they called themselves. Their leader was Ferdinand Devlin, a captain of highest quality, and also an unbelievably honorable man for a pirate. The next few months after Nate joined the crew of the Skull Pirates saw drastic shifts in the world around him. A sequence of events happened in quick succession, starting with the death of King Elvanan in February 2012. Less than a month later, Edgar was on the throne and making it known in no uncertain terms that he was indeed there. April saw a sudden shift in the government from a benevolent monarchy to a totalitarian rule. Ferdinand’s elder son, Raoul, chose to resist this movement, and took the ship and crew granted to him by his father (who nevertheless chose not to style himself as ‘Admiral’ Devlin) on a mission against one of the ships of the newly-declared ‘Imperial Navy’. A bitter battle ensued. The ship was captained by two men known as the ‘Twin Swords of the South’ – the Randell brothers, Colton and Calvin. Raoul and his men fought bravely against overwhelming numbers, even managing to take the life of Calvin Randell. The crew of the Natus was decimated, however, and Raoul was eventually executed without even the due process of a public trial, as had been the custom when Elvanan ruled as king.

    When Ferdinand heard this news, he became bitter and withdrawn -- a meager shadow of the man he had been. Royce, however, realized that looking the other way after his own brother had been killed was no longer an option. A rift formed in the Skull Pirate gang, clearly along generational lines – the veteran pirates wanted, above all else, to maintain neutrality. They were opposed by the hot-headed youth of the pirate crews, who wanted to strike a blow against the forming Empire for freedom’s sake. Eventually, Royce and the majority of the younger pirates found a way to wrest the ship from Imperial custody, declaring independence at the same time from the Imperials as well as from the Skull Pirates and going on to form their own crew with a teenage Royce Devlin as the captain.

    At the same time, Ferdinand and Nate, war having claimed both their loved ones and their lives as they knew them, became unlikely friends and confidants, and it was by about July that this conversation had taken place.

    “What does a man do when he loses everything, Clayton?” Ferdinand asked him, sipping cheap wine from a bottle. Nate had declined this time, although over the last nine months, he had indulged twice or three times, either in moments of extreme weakness and pain or in an attempt to earn popularity with his fellow crewmembers. His fourteenth birthday had come and gone without much herald, for he had told no one, preferring on that October day to mourn his beloved in peace and solitude. He looked up at his captain, who was still perfectly coherent after having had a couple of glasses. Ferdinand had been a social drinker during the best of times.

    “That’s a good question, Captain,” Nate replied quietly, sitting in a leather armchair on the other side of the table with an empty plate that had formerly been occupied by his dinner. “I guess it’s at that point you learn that the more things you have, the more painful your life will be.”

    “Maybe…but what do you do after that?” Ferdinand asked. Nate remained silent.

    “I don’t know,” he said, looking down. “It’s better to die then, isn’t it?”

    “It’s certainly easier,” Ferdinand answered, taking another sip of his wine. “If you were to take your own life right now, I would think no less of you…but I believe that there’s some reward in your other option.”

    “Other option?” Nate had a habit of doing this. “What’s this ‘other option’?”

    “You live,” Ferdinand explained as if there was a powerfully profound meaning behind this simple statement. “When the world wants you to die, you live. You see, if we keep living…there’s an end to it all somehow. If we keep living when the world tells us to die, then whatever or whoever is controlling our lives and making them so bitter and miserable has to have mercy upon us at some point.”

    “Really?” Nate pushed his plate aside. A bitter expression on his face, he said, “Seems to me like your ‘mercy’ is wasted on the prosperous.”

    “Even so….” Ferdinand took another drink. “You have a better chance than I do. You’re still young. You could find another…”

    “No,” Nate said, cutting Ferdinand off. “Don’t say that to me. Now I wonder if it was even worth it – if everything I ever cared about will be taken away from me…”

    “Live anyway,” Ferdinand answered. “That’s all you can do, really. It sounds fatalistic, but some people are meant to lead unhappy lives – although they never figure out why until later.”

    Nate looked at Ferdinand as the latter hiccupped. His face was turning red.

    “I think people can change,”

    He gestured toward the drink on Ferdinand’s table and stood up.

    “I want something better for my life,” Nate said. “But, until I find a reason to be alive…I’ll stay here.”



    An entire year passed. Nate grew accustomed to the more uncouth and primal aspects of being a pirate. He had settled into a lifestyle – a perfect medium where he could remain, yet remain himself if the time came to move again. He did not take another drink, and he did not engage in some of their greater vices. Mostly, he stayed to himself and offered the crew the simple boon of having his sword if the time should arise to fight again. He kept the nature of the sword a secret to everyone but Ferdinand and Carrigan. Granted, most of the pirates wouldn’t have understood or believed the legend even if he told them, but it was easier this way. Uneducated sailors might not have known of the legends and supernatural forces surrounding their world, but they did know one thing – power.

    And speaking of power, the newly-crowned King Edgar of Hoenn was consolidating his and making no bones about it. They were able to move with relative ease between Petalburg and Dewford. The owner of the Petalburg port had been a ‘rebel sympathizer’ and was summarily executed. Immediately the port was overrun by pirates. Granted, each band considered the next a rival, but the Sapphire Skull Pirates and the upstart Ruby Skull Pirates were so feared that none of the smaller crews tried to pick a fight with them. The few that did were either assimilated or decimated. Nevertheless, the Petalburg harbor was a tense place, especially when the two crews would meet on the harbor. Small scuffles would break out on the harbor, but they just became part of the territory.

    Leave Dewford…

    Cross the sea to Petalburg…

    Sack a merchant ship or three…

    Arrive at Petalburg…

    Resupply…

    Fight off a Ruby Skull or three…

    Leave Petalburg…

    Cross the sea to Dewford…

    Sack a merchant ship or three…

    Lather…

    Rinse…

    Repeat…

    Nate found himself locked in this cycle for over a year. It was an empty life, but he’d be no better off languishing in a corner and grieving. He knew that he would never forget about her, but maybe having something to do would dull his pain after a while. He even started to believe that…

    Then, one day in May as they neared Petalburg, Captain Ferdinand invited Nate to his chambers again.

    Each sat down in his usual chair. There was a long silence, and Nate wondered what it was that Ferdinand wanted.

    “You wanted to see me?” Nate asked.

    “A year ago, you told me about your sword, the Sacred Gale,” Ferdinand said. “Well, Johto has its own sword…the Sacred Flame.”

    Nate looked up. He had not heard the name of that sword invoked in nearly two full years.

    “Yes,” he said slowly, nodding. “What about it?”

    “Well, don’t quote me on this, because it’s just a rumor, but I heard that there’s a Pokémon Trainer here whose description exactly matches the boy you said owned the Sacred Flame,” Ferdinand said. Nate’s heart nearly leapt into his throat.

    Nate sat back in his chair. He could feel cold sweat running down his face as if he had stepped from before a blazing hearth into the wake of an Articuno. There were rules that governed those swords – he knew that much. He knew that the presence of two in the same nation heralded some sort of historic event. Something big was about to happen.

    “Are you alright?” Ferdinand asked. “Clayton?”

    “Looks like…I might have to leave for a while,” Nate said. “Something’s happening. I’m not sure what, but I have to go find out.”

    “Will you be back?” Ferdinand asked.

    “Maybe…maybe not,” Nate shrugged, looking down at his folded hands.


    That’s what started it. It wasn’t a week before he saw Travis in Petalburg Woods and ran into that strange girl that had stolen his sword. He saw them again in another week or so. By the beginning of June, his journey had brought him back to Ferdinand’s ship again. As always, a battle between Ruby Skulls and Sapphire Skulls ensued, and this one spilled over to the sea. After the battle, Nate heard, along with the saddening news that Ferdinand had been killed, that a “crazy little ***** with pink hair,” as Carrigan so affectionately dubbed her, had been captured.

    June 5, PA 2013 – The Selma


    He watched the girl hanging from the wall, strung up by her wrists. It would be relatively easy to get rid of Carrigan and rescue her…if they weren’t completely surrounded by other pirates and then endless miles of water. Carrigan favored his back. He rarely ever did anything like that, let alone walked with a limp. It took a lot to make Carrigan feel any pain, and a lot more for him to let anybody know that he was feeling pain – so the fact that the people that had fought him (including that strange, bronze-haired young man he’d seen traveling with Travis) had inflicted such injuries on him was indeed very impressive. Nate heard a feminine groan. Carrigan smirked. The girl opened her baby-blue eyes and Nate knew for sure in that moment.

    “You’re awake,” Carrigan grunted. To Carrigan’s left (from Katrina’s vantage point) stood a youth wearing a blue hood over an orange shirt.

    “You’re alive,” Katrina replied, the strength in her body and voice returning.

    “Sorry to disappoint you,” Carrigan commented. “I’ve gotta admit, that reckless charge of yours took me by surprise. But you forgot one important rule of hunting – never wound what you can’t kill.”

    She stared defiantly at Carrigan and braced as he raised the whip…Nate had to act fast.

    “Sir!” Nate shouted, stopping Carrigan dead in his tracks. By process of elimination (the elimination being that there was no one else in the room), Carrigan singled out the hooded boy with the scar on his cheek.

    “Clayton, what is it?” Carrigan asked. He sounded annoyed – not good. You didn’t want to get Carrigan annoyed, no matter how much he appeared to like you.

    “I believe as the newly-appointed bosun, this is my job,” Nate commented. “You have more important matters to attend to, do you not?”

    “What’s your angle?” Carrigan asked suspiciously. Then, smiling nastily, he settled on what he thought was the answer and added, “Ah – I see. If that’s what you’d like, then I’ll leave you to do your – ahem – business.”

    “Alright, Captain,” Nate said a bit impatiently. Carrigan dropped the whip in Nate’s hands before exiting the chamber. Nate looked over his shoulder and then dropped the whip on the ground.

    “Clayton...” Katrina repeated incredulously. “So, that’s your name.”


    Nate walked up to where Katrina was hanging from the ceiling. He backed away and pulled out his sword. Her eyes widened and she let out a small gasp. Thinking of how this must have looked from her perspective, he couldn’t say that he blamed her. He reared back without a word and tomahawked the sword…past her head…at the rope above her. She let out another gasp as she began to fall. With deftness and agility, Nate was under her with time to spare. He caught her, set her down on the ground, leapt several feet in the air and yanked the sword from the wall. It was the strangest thing ever…ever since he had heard and confirmed the rumor that Travis was in Hoenn, his powers (which had been completely unusable in the last two years) had been returning to him.

    He landed calmly on the ground and sheathed his sword. He then reached down for Katrina’s wrists. She shook out of nerves momentarily as this boy quietly went about doing his task. It turns out that he was trying to untie her wrists from the twine. She opened and closed her hands repeatedly to return the circulation, as well as favoring her wrists, where the rope had eaten into them and left deep, crimson imprints in her skin.

    “Are you alright, Katrina?” he asked her.

    “Hm?” Katrina uttered. Nate’s eyes darted around the room for a second. He didn’t want to tell her who he was just yet.

    “That’s your name, isn’t it?” he replied with a query on his own, and the look on Katrina’s face clearly said that she wasn’t buying his act. “Are you alright?”

    “I’ve felt better,” Katrina said, lifting herself into a sitting position against the wall. “How long was I out?”

    “Almost a full day,” Nate replied. With a disgusted-looking facial expression, he informed her, “Carrigan wanted to wait to torture you until you woke up. He likes hearing his victims scream, of course.”

    “But you saved me,” Katrina commented.

    “Of course I did,” Nate said. He guessed that, either way, she would have been surprised.

    “What now?” Katrina asked. Nate thought for a second before he answered.

    “For now, just let me do all of the talking,” he replied. “Can you stand?”

    “Yeah, I think so,” Katrina answered, struggling into a standing position. She looked up at him and seemed to be trying to look under his hood. He turned around while trying to look as discreet as possible. “You know…I think I might have a hunch who you are.”

    Nate smirked.

    “You know who I am better than I do,” he commented bitterly. “That’s funny.”



    For safety’s sake, Nate took Katrina back to his own quarters amid snickers and wolf-whistles from the other pirates. He knew what this must have looked like, but he honestly didn’t care at the moment. There were apparently questions that both of them wanted answered, and it was something that had to be done in privacy. As Katrina sat down on the lone bed in this room, Nate busied himself with a mug, a few bags of tea that had been among Ferdinand’s last gift to him before he died – a tea he knew to be Katrina’s favorite, and a small bit of fresh water.

    “Drink this – it’ll help you get your strength back – and probably cheer you up, to boot,” he said, offering Katrina the mug. He resisted the urge to smirk as Katrina smelled the tea and realized which flavor it was. “The winds of change are blowing. It looks like it’s time for me to follow them.”

    “What do you mean?” Katrina asked.

    “I might be needed somewhere else now,” Nate replied. “This atmosphere is sort of...uncomfortable nowadays. I got to know Ferdinand pretty well. He was actually a good man...but his grief and his anger at his own inadequacy as a father and husband turned him bitter. He wanted to...get rid of all reminders of his failure. The only thing he did right was taking in Carrigan, who was an orphan he found at sea, on the run from the law.”

    “Needed somewhere else?” Katrina asked.

    “Somewhere where I can help people,” Nate said. “I have to atone for my sins – especially against you.”

    “Against me?” Katrina asked. “Have we met before?”

    “You met the person that became what you see here in front of you,” Nate sighed. “I don’t like to talk about him – and I’m sure you wouldn’t, either.”

    Katrina set her mug down.

    “I’d like to thank you for helping us,” she said, standing up.

    “It’s the least I could do, I guess – hm?” Nate felt two hands taking his from behind. He turned around and, to his great shock, saw Katrina leaning in as if she wanted to kiss him. “What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you already have someone –“

    “He doesn’t need to know, does he?” Katrina asked, a mischievous grin on her face. She inched in closer, closer...

    Nate felt his hair yanked back and realized that his hood had been removed suddenly and forcefully. Katrina backed up a step – he’d been expecting that reaction.

    “Good move,” Nate said, a half-smile flashing on his somewhat deadened-looking face for a second.

    “You’re not the only one who’s changed,” Katrina replied.

    “You’re not the same innocent little girl anymore,” Nate said, reminiscing about their youth in New Bark Town. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

    “You fool...why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Katrina asked, clenching her fists. She had obvious tears in her eyes. Why was she angry at him? Surely everything had been easier with him gone…hadn’t it?

    “Because I know you wouldn’t trust me if I told you who I was,” Nate replied honestly.

    “You left with a lot of secrets,” Katrina said. “You didn’t tell us that you were Lugia’s Swordbearer...the one that desires to bring peace and balance of powers...”


    “I didn’t know myself...for a while,” Nate commented. There was a long silence after this.

    “Listen...” Nate felt a couple of arms turn him around and then enclose him. Katrina said, her voice cracking, “Go back home. Your family hasn’t seen you in two years and they’re worried to death.”

    “They’ll get along fine without me. All I ever did was burden them,” Nate replied. He let go of Katrina and walked toward the door, sighing, “Sorry about all this...”

    “Don’t you walk out on me...Nathaniel Clayton Elm!” Katrina shouted. Nate stopped dead in his tracks and turned around. “I forgive you – but that doesn’t do any of us any good if you won’t forgive yourself!”

    “First off, don’t call me that,” he growled angrily. He hated the name ‘Nathaniel’. She would always call him ‘Nathaniel’ or ‘Lord Nathaniel’. He couldn’t constantly be reminded of that. “Second – do you have any idea what it’s like to have someone’s blood on your hands? A life that you loved and could have saved, but failed?”

    “Why didn’t you tell us you were involved in the war? We could have helped you!” Katrina said.

    “Third, don’t yell,” Nate said, looking at the door. “I’m risking a lot by having you up here, and I can only get away with it because I’m pretty much second-in-command now and because Carrigan’s mind is always in the gutter. Fourth...he’d never forgive me for keeping you from him for so long. That’s why I need to get you back.”

    “We’ve both learned that it doesn’t do anyone any good to hold grudges against people,” Katrina replied. “At least, I’ve learned...’

    “I know how much it would hurt him to be away from you after all this,” Nate said, wondering exactly how Travis was feeling right now. This had to have been the first time in years that he and Katrina had been separated and unable to contact each other. But he was lucky. At least Katrina was still alive... “The old me would have used that information as a weapon.”

    “I have a question,” Katrina replied. “Do you know a girl named Avril Pennington?”

    “No,” Nate said. The only Penningtons he knew were across the street from Katrina. They couldn’t have children. Maybe this ‘Avril’ was a relative of theirs or something?

    “Did you know any girl that was named Avril?” Katrina replied. Nate’s face fell. She had hit him right in the heart, and he could no longer hide…

    “She was my first love,” he explained to Katrina. “I met her during the war, and everything about me changed. But then Fate had to punish me for my wrongdoings...it took her away from me. She’s dead.”

    “Are you sure?” Katrina asked.

    “She was on Angelos’ airship when it blew up!” Nate yelled, feeling his eyes begin to water. “Nobody survives that! And I thought the Penningtons didn’t have any children!”

    “They didn’t – until after you disappeared,” Katrina replied. “Then, they adopted a teenage girl. She’s become one of my best friends, actually. It’ll make you happy to hear that she’s doing well.”

    “Why? I don’t know her,” Nate snarled. So this was her angle. She went through all of this trouble just for the chance to torture him. Even though he knew he deserved it, it still didn’t change the fact that it hurt. “Even though I treated you really badly, this is a cruel trick to play on someone. I’m leaving.”

    “No, you aren’t,” Katrina retorted, her baby-blue eyes glowing. Nate tried to push the door open. It was like someone had barricaded it or sealed it shut. He turned around. With a tough look on her face, Katrina snarled, “I purposely got myself captured so I could get onto this ship and talk to you. You’re going to hear me out!”


    “Stop yelling,” Nate pleaded, his eyes furtively darting toward the door. “Carrigan’s going to find us.”

    “You can’t honestly convince me that you’re afraid of him!” Katrina exclaimed. “You have one of the Three Legendary Swords.”

    “Three?” the black-haired boy repeated. Katrina smirked – one of those smirks that says clearly that someone has information that you don’t.

    “A-ha...out of the loop, are we?” she said. “Looks like I have lots to tell you. Now, if you will, turn around for a second.”

    The boy turned around and heard a rustling behind him. Ten seconds later, Katrina’s voice sounded and she said, “Okay, you can look now.”

    Katrina was standing there with an envelope. By process of elimination, he figured that she must have hid it somewhere under her top. Was she trying to deliver this to him specifically?

    “What the hell is that?” the boy asked.

    “A greeting card,” Katrina answered. “For you.”

    She held out the card and, nervously, he took it. His hands trembling, he opened it. He got it out back-first and recognized the PennBriar Greetings logo immediately. He turned it around and saw what looked like a hand-painted drawing that was divided into two main elements. In the lower left-hand corner of the card was a pink, butterfly-like creature with huge eyes and big, white wings with black markings. He recognized it immediately as a female Butterfree. She seemed to be perched on a tree. He looked at the other side, which had the same creature, except of an indigo color and flying high in the air. He opened the card and read the words.

    “Here’s hoping you flutter back to me one day,” he said, sounding shocked. What got him more is, where there would normally be a name or a signature, there seemed to be a piece of paper that had been folded several times, taped to the inside of the card. He took it out and opened it.

    Dear Nathaniel,

    If you’re reading this letter, then it means that I made a very lucky guess about where you’d be next. I’m not sure exactly why you left New Bark Town, but I hope you come home soon. I really miss you. Maybe Katrina told you already (I gave this letter to her, hoping that she would find you somewhere), but I survived the war and the explosion of the airship...somehow. You might think it’s crazy, but right between the time the ship exploded and when I passed out, I saw this huge, white bird. I think it might have been a Pokémon, but what Pokémon would spend its time trying to save my life? I haven’t figured it out yet.

    In any case, someone found me right outside of New Bark Town and took me to an orphanage. It wasn’t long before a couple from your neighborhood found me. They’re my parents now.


    His hands shook continuously and the constant pulling and tugging threatened to tear the letter in two. Katrina jumped up and guided Nate to his bed, holding onto both of his hands to keep them steady as he continued to read.

    I hope you haven’t forgotten about me after all this time. I haven’t forgotten about you at all. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about you and hope and wish that you’ll come home soon.

    I guess I’ve been adjusting pretty well to a peaceful life. I learned how to play guitar and I write music from time to time. I still remember how to fence and I’ve been giving lessons, so if Katrina pulls a sword on someone, don’t be surprised. I own a Butterfree – it’s my favorite Pokémon. Someone must have thought me to be attractive because Mrs. Sasano came to me and asked me to model for her clothing line. I turned her down, though. I don’t plan on going anywhere until I see you again.

    I made this card for you because I knew that you’d recognize what it meant to us...and, guess what? My parents liked it so much that they put it into their line of greeting cards. It’s being sold nationwide now. I’ve never forgotten what you said to me on the beach that day. Now that it’s happened, I want you to come back home so we can fly free together.

    Please come home when you’re ready. I’m waiting for you, just like you told me right before you went out to fight.

    I’m still waiting for you.

    Love,
    Avril Pennington

    P.S. – I’m sorry about this, but this picture is how I look now. Not too impressive, I know. I hope you didn’t cut your hair – it looked okay long.



    As he thought on those moments again – he remembered them as clearly as if they had all happened yesterday – he could not contain himself. Tears began to slowly run down his face. Silent tears, but tears nonetheless.

    “Is something wrong?” he heard a voice. It sounded vaguely familiar – like something he’d heard a long time ago.

    “Everything,” Nate said without looking up. “My entire life.”

    “Oh, come on,” the girl said rather derisively. She sounded a little bit like – no, no way…this voice had too much…personality, too much life to it. Wishful thinking. That was all this was: wishful thinking. “Your life can’t be all that bad, can it? You’re alive, aren’t you?”

    “Yes…and no,” Nate answered.

    “Is that a metaphor, or are you trying to scare me off?” the girl asked. Nate, for some reason, couldn’t find a way to look at her. When he didn’t respond, the girl continued to grill him. “Are you new here? I haven’t seen you around before. Well, I don’t think so, anyway, I can’t really get a good look at you with your head turned like that…”

    “No,” Nate admitted. “No, I grew up here.”

    “Why don’t you look at me?” the girl asked. “This conversation would be a whole lot less awkward.”

    “I…don’t feel like talking,” Nate said, standing and sitting on a further bench without looking at her.

    “Suit yourself,” the girl said rather nonchalantly. Seconds later, Nate heard the unmistakable tones of an acoustic guitar.

    If I wait long enough

    I know the sun will shine, and

    If I wait long enough

    I know the sun will shine again


    She began to sing. Her voice was beautiful and loud and resonant. He could tell from just these few words that, whenever she sang, she held nothing back.

    Nate uttered a strange, staccato “ah–” sound and the girl stopped playing.

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know it’s not all that great, but…”

    “Did you write it yourself?” Nate asked.

    “This….yeah,” she laughed. “That’s why it’s so bad.”

    “It’s beautiful,” Nate answered, looking up straight at the girl. If he hadn’t been so shocked himself, he might have laughed at the way she reacted. She nearly dropped the guitar and looked like she was having a heart attack.

    Actually…Nate thought that he was having a heart attack. His heart was beating so fast and irregularly that he was expecting the pain of a broken rib to hit sometime within the next five seconds. Nate inched in closer, sure that he was seeing a mirage. Maybe this girl, with her long, straight, honey-blonde hair and silver eyes wasn’t really here. Maybe he was mistaken, and she was someone else.

    “Is that you?” Nate croaked, standing up. “Avril?”

    The girl, biting her lips, stood and nodded.

    They approached each other at a painfully slow pace, each of them shedding tears on the way and not really knowing how to handle their new reality. When they reached each other, they slowly fell into each other’s arms. He opened his mouth to talk, but all that came out was a muffled cry. After five minutes that felt like days, Avril removed her head so that Nate could get a good look at her angelic face. Even a bit puffy and red with tears, she still looked beautiful. To his surprise, she let out a tearful sort of laugh.

    “I guess you got my letter, then?” she asked.

    “Yeah,” Nate answered simply, looking down and reaching up toward her face. He brushed back the hair on both sides of her face to expose her ears. She stood still and smiled at him as he did so. She was wearing silver Butterfree earrings that matched her eyes. He stood there with his mouth half-open, not really knowing why he was hesitating so much. Before he could answer that question, she leaned in and kissed him, giggling as she did so. He felt that his heart would burst, just as he did the day that he thought she had died. But this feeling was different – opposite.

    That day, he had discovered a new limit on how much sadness he could feel.

    Today, he had reached a new high, a mountain summit of happiness as of yet undiscovered in his heart.

    “I want to show you someplace,” Avril finally said to him after a while.



    So, hand-in-hand and Avril’s guitar on Nate’s back, they began walking to this place. On the way, they talked. Well, she talked. It was almost enough for Nate just to listen to her talk now. He inwardly laughed at himself as he realized that the way he remembered her voice no longer applied. She was no longer tentative or whispery when she spoke. She spoke as one honest and sure of herself. She definitely exuded a kind of energy that had simply not been there when he last saw her two years ago. It was as if someone had put a previously absent will to live inside of her and supercharged it. She wanted to live life to the fullest and hold nothing back. She talked about her dreams and hopes as if they were just one reach of the hand away. She had become a life, a spirit all her own, and it was that fact that made Nate fall in love with her all over again.

    They walked, past Barkton Terrace, past Gilchrist Heights, past the hospital, even, to the highest point in New Bark Town, up to the white Sentret Monument erected to the man named Carson Bark. The city builders felt that a twenty-foot, white Sentret standing on its tail was the only natural choice. Sentret was known as the Scout Pokémon, and one of the distinguishing characteristics of its species was its ability and capacity to stand on its tail in order to see danger from a greater distance. Carson Bark was the name of the scout that, according to history, rode his Rapidash from this site all the way up the mountain to Farmount during Johto’s War of Independence to alert Jonah and the Freedom Fighters that Aldibar’s ground forces were on their way.

    Appropriately, this statue overlooked the entirety of New Bark Town for any signs of danger. Today, though, there was no danger. There was only a beautiful sun setting over the fire-colored horizon to the west. There was a flock of Pidgeotto flying southwest, their forms thrown into the shadow by the bright sunlight.

    And there they were.

    They sat down on this hill and gazed at the approaching dusk. Although the sun was setting, this was a new day for both of them. The tears were gone – there was no reason to cry anymore. Their love had new hope, new life.

    “I never knew the view was so beautiful from up here,” Nate commented.

    “Most people don’t,” Avril stated. “They’re all walking fast…going nowhere.”

    “The treadmill of life, huh?” Nate commented.

    “Something like that,” Avril laughed. She shifted over onto his lap and leaned against him. “You know…ever since I came here, I’ve been waiting for you to come back. Now that you have…”

    “…I’m not sure what to do, either,” Nate said, holding her close to himself. “I was right in the middle of trying to figure out how to live without you when I found out you were still alive.”

    They sat in silence for a few more moments.

    “Avril,” Nate said.

    “Hm?” she uttered as she looked up at him.

    “I’m sorry,” Nate replied. “Sorry you had to go through all that…I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you…”

    “Please stop,” Avril interrupted. Nate fell silent. “You don’t have to be sorry for anything. I’m not sorry for any of it.”

    Nate looked down at her curiously.

    “I was reading a poem up here once,” Avril said. “One of the lines was, ‘only the caged bird knows the value of freedom.’ That’s…me in a nutshell, I guess. I appreciate being able to live free – every second of it – because there was a time when I couldn’t.”

    Avril put up her hand and touched Nate’s cheek. He shuddered as her fingers found the scar that had been traced on his face by her brother’s sword nearly two years ago.

    “Then you came along,” she said, smiling. Nate closed his eyes. A solitary tear spilt forth from them as Avril said. “I know you feel guilty that you couldn’t do anything when the airship exploded…but if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have made it that far.”

    Nate opened his burgundy eyes.

    “You gave me a reason to live,” she explained. “I would still have been willing to die fighting if it weren’t for you. I might have even taken my own life. And the thing that kept me going was your promise…that someday, you’d come back for me, and we’d be together in peace. And you know what?”

    Nate looked down at her as she drew closer to him and whispered.

    “You kept every single word,” she said. She kissed him gently on the neck, then on the lips.

    “I love you,” Nate said finally, remembering how he dreamed of how he had wanted to say those words to her one more time…

    “I love you, too…”

    He never imagined that, one day, she would have the chance to talk back to him.

    -------

    Author's Note: Hey, guys, it'd be really nice if you could do me a favor. I'm going to start a PM list for the sake of notifying you more easily when I post a chapter instead of you guys having to guess all the time. So, post here or shoot me a PM to let me know if you wanna be on the list. You don't have to be a regular reviewer, either. If you're just reading and want to know when there's a new chapter coming, let me know. Thanks!

    - EM1
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 3rd October 2007 at 6:45 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  22. #172
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    Oct 2005
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    Yay, new chapterage! (suddenly feels bad for not posting update...)

    I'm all over this!

    I'm back man!

    Dude, this rocked the house! Sorry for the lateness, had a seminar earlier this week and one next week to boot! Man, final year's rough!

    The reminiscing was done perfectly in all the right places, and the lowdown on Nate and Avril's reunion was so awesome!

    I saw no errors either, so god one on you dude! or rather, i saw one and can't remember where...

    Oh well, good job, this inspired me to finish TCQ 20 tonight or bust!

    L@er!
    Last edited by Air Dragon; 5th October 2007 at 8:42 AM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
    PROJECT C-SQUARE STATUS = 100.00% Complete (11-12-2010, ca. 2:40pm GMT)
    HEART OF SEVEN STONES IS ON INDEFINITE HIATUS (REAPED) UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
    Butt-ugly Banner by Me
    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  23. #173
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    Jul 2006
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    Man, sometimes I really hate authors... First you post and make me remember Lance's story, then I go and finish reading Cross of Fates (which I predicted the ending of CORRECTLY when they were on Cinnabar Island and it STILL brought tears...), and now you hammer us with Nate and Avril's emotionally charged reunion. I'm going to turn emo if it keeps up. No seriously, all I need to do is rearrange my iPod and it'll be done.

    Anyway, I really liked this chapter. Nate's dad finally getting some screentime (I forget if he was ever introduced before, honestly) was cool, as well as finally filling in the gaps of Nate's soul-seeking journey. Also, this provides a much needed reprieve from an entire fic of Travis kicking butt in various ways. Not that said violence isn't welcomed, for that is what makes this fic worthwhile, but the last heart-wrenching thing I can remember you writing was at the end of PRJ, though Kenjiro almost dying came close.

    Finally, don't sell yourself short, EM1. Dragonfree has battles down, and Saber takes the cake when it comes to humor, but you write a chapter's worth of backstory on a battle, make it pop to life complete with blood and carnage, and even manage to crack jokes in the middle of it. In my opinion <warningflatteryahead> you're just as good as those two. But then again, no matter how good you are, there's always someone better, so take it or leave it.

    You DID get your sequel out faster though, *coughcough* -Oath

    EDIT: Forgot to tell you to give me a spot on that list, heheh...

    PS:     Spoiler:- rofl:
    Last edited by Oathblivion; 5th October 2007 at 3:20 AM.

  24. #174
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    i am a regular reader but i don't like to post. BTW i'd like to be on the list
    If your tired of People saying that the new game is a spinoff paste this in your Sig. 5th Gen is Coming!

  25. #175
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    Feb 2006
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    would you believe my luck? right when i'm able to get back on the computor, three new chapters up!

    i'm not gunna comment on all of them, but i must say that this last one was very nice. i loved it. i must say, for an author who does not do emotional very often, you sure have mastered the art of getting your reader to feel the character's pain. that is for SURE.

    anyway, now that closet reading is done, and i'm all caught up, HI!!!!! nice to see you again! (awkward introduction...)

    and that pm list....definitely add me. i'd love to be on that.

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